Letters to the Editor, July 11, 2013
Elitist system will not be true democracy
I refer to Alex Lo's column ("Democracy is not a panacea", July 2).
I agree with him that procedural democracy is not the panacea for everything. However, it is still a basic precondition for an improvement of the present system, especially if democracy is not narrowly defined as periodic elections but also includes greater social equality. Without democracy there is little hope the present situation will change. All the countries Lo refers to as sites of protests lack an important aspect of democracy - the need for social redistribution.
Instead, the role model should be social democracies in western Europe, especially, for example, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and, to a certain degree, Germany. These countries have not yet seen the massive protests mentioned by Lo because wealth is more evenly distributed. Of course, the unfair distribution globally has also put these countries under pressure.
Hong Kong's ruling elites are worried about democracy because they feel it could reduce the competitiveness of the city.
Democratisation could do this only if poorer sections of the population went to the polls on a one-man, one-vote basis and believing they could make changes. In general, this transformation will be very painful, especially for the wealthy.
They will try to resist as much as possible and that's why any kind of democratic procedures are likely to be biased in favour of the establishment. Democracy can only solve problems if it is true qualitative democracy and not an elitist system that favours the rich.
Hong Kong needs democracy first and then reforms to social policies that reduce income inequality.
A similar system could then be transferred to the mainland, which has long abandoned the principle of social equality.
Stephan Ortmann, Kowloon Tong
Estimate by organisers of march too high
July 1 saw the annual and peaceful march through the streets of Central, where Hongkongers express their grievances over economic, social and political issues.
Election by universal suffrage of the chief executive and Legislative Council, as guaranteed by the Basic Law, is one of the biggest concerns of Hong Kong people, including me, as the government has yet to show its willingness to fulfil its promises.
That said, however, it was unacceptable for the Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of the march, to greatly exaggerate the number of participants.
Police put the figure at 66,000, the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme came to a final estimate of around 90,000. Meanwhile, the organisers said there were 430,000 protesters, a number that is more than four times the presumably most neutral figure from HKU.
This is not a one-off occurrence. I believe the figures for the July 1 march have been exaggerated by the organisers over the past three years.
I do not like people coming up with inflated figures, whoever they may be. The front represented the protesters and it should not have brought out an estimate that raised people's suspicions and been so critical of the police estimate.
This insults all those people who braved the stormy weather conditions to express their grievances.
The number of marchers is not the most important issue here, but rather the reaction of the government towards the protesters' grievances.
Given the concerns expressed by Hongkongers I believe the administration should begin the consultation period for political reforms as soon as possible.
Also, the Civil Human Rights Front should curb its tendency to come up with unrealistic march estimates.
The truth is our strongest weapon.
Joshua Lam, Kwai Chung
Blame greedy landlords, not mainlanders
I refer to the press reports on McDonald's being forced to move out of Russell Street, in Causeway Bay, because of high rents.
People can put the blame on tourists from the mainland for many things. But what has happened here shows the greed and short-sighted attitude of the Hong Kong landlord in general. If you look at the prices many of the owners of shop spaces in Russell Street (and even on Nathan Road) originally paid to acquire their properties, rents are exorbitant beyond reason.
These landlords have to wish that affluent mainland visitors keep coming in great numbers to buy jewellery, cosmetics, brand name products and pharmaceuticals. Many locals just want to be able to find the things they once enjoyed there.
Wilkie Wong, Yuen Long
Speeding in Sai Kung getting much worse
The purpose of the No Speeding Protest walk in Sai Kung last Sunday was to raise awareness about the speeding problem in Sai Kung district.
Participants, including drivers, pedestrians, hikers, mothers, fathers, students and others, fear that if speeding in Sai Kung continues, the next victim won't be a cow, but a human being. Recently, the speeding has become intolerable and we believe the local police do not get the support they need to successfully deal with the situation.
Many of us live in Sai Kung (the "back garden of Hong Kong") to get away from the city. We want to continue to live in harmony with the diverse wildlife in the district.
The speeding, however, is putting both human and non-human life at risk. It is difficult to enjoy a walk on the pavements of Tai Mong Tsai or Pak Tam roads when cars are whizzing by. At weekends there is a problem with cars double- parked or parked on the pavement. Pedestrians have been clipped by wing mirrors from speeding vehicles. There are also road racers at night.
Minibuses in Hong Kong are notorious for driving fast and Sai Kung is no exception. Some minibuses inside Sai Kung Country Park have been clocked going at 80km/h.
Given the high speeds and narrow, twisting roads, they have created a danger zone for people wanting to enjoy the country parks.
The relevant government departments must implement speed reduction measures within the Sai Kung area before it is too late.
Speed cameras and rumble strips are in use in other parts of Hong Kong and effectively curb speeding.
We implore all drivers to drive cautiously and to adhere to the speed limits on the roads.
Sandra Chakrabarty, Carol Biddell, co-organisers, No Speeding Protest
Egypt should have secular constitution
As if the crisis in Syria was not enough (with some estimates putting the death toll since the conflict began at over 100,000), the dismissal (or overthrow) of the government of Mohammed Mursi in Egypt has put the spotlight on the role of the United States.
It is a grim reminder that President Barack Obama may end up leaving a legacy without anything positive to remember him by.
He is failing to get involved and instead is leaving matters in this area mostly to his secretary of state, John Kerry.
Foreign policy changes are needed with regard to the Arab spring and the US needs to have a commitment to secular global democratisation through the UN if the Arab spring is to be tackled in a civilised way.
Washington will have to adopt a global policy of permanent engagement in human rights issues.
It will have to dilute its policy of economic pressure as threats regarding military aid in Egypt have fallen on deaf ears in Cairo.
The UN must establish an election commission which will ensure a free and fair election in Egypt under a secular constitution.
This is the only way to ensure that a future election does not eventually lead to the forces of fundamentalism taking control.
The UN could suggest three or four such constitutions and Egypt could choose the one that was thought to be the most appropriate.
Given that India is the world's largest functioning democracy and has such a large Muslim population, it could play a crucial guiding role in this regard.
It could provide peacekeepers and assist with the electoral commission established by the UN.
Hem Raj Jain, Karauli, Rajasthan, India
HK dollar will stay strong for some time
Based on the strong economic data from the US and weaker data in Europe, it is very likely that interest rates will continue to rise in the US, which will cause the US dollar to strengthen.
This in turn will make the Hong Kong dollar also follow suit.
After years of decline, we are likely to see this trend continue for the foreseeable future. Hong Kong people will benefit from a stronger currency over the coming years when travelling abroad.
I feel the strong dollar pattern will gain momentum as it becomes a safe-haven currency while other economies, including China, face uncertainties over their banking sector. Five years ago, nobody would have believed the US dollar had a chance to strengthen.
Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels