Letters to the Editor, July 5, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 5:29am

Introduce real-time bus information

As the franchises for Citybus and New Lantao Bus will lapse in mid-2016 and early 2017 respectively, it is time to consider how bus services can be improved during the franchise negotiation process.

Although there will be pressure from politicians on fares and service levels, we have to ensure the expectations of the bus companies are realistic.

We live in Asia's world city and we have to adopt a more global perspective.

Public transport is measured by two key elements - fare level and service reliability.

From a global perspective, public utilities in Hong Kong in general (including our bus service) offer really good value for money.

From a fare perspective, our bus services are affordable in relation to the general wage level in Hong Kong.

The unique development pattern (where only 16 per cent of the land mass is developed) creates clearly identifiable traffic corridors that buses can use with a relatively high load factor, thus lowering the average cost of transport provision.

In many cities where the fares are lower than Hong Kong, they have been subsidised by the city authorities out of public coffers.

In these cities, citizens pay for buses (indirectly through taxes), whether they travel on them or not.

The "user-pays principle" adopted in Hong Kong is a preferable model. The bus service in general is good. Buses are clean, well air-conditioned and comfortable.

A lot of recent complaints arise from the failure to adhere to timetables, which is sometimes understandable given the uncontrollable traffic conditions on roads, which buses share with other road users.

But there is one area in which Hong Kong lags behind - real-time bus information.

In many mainland cities, a waiting passenger can tell by the display at the bus stop the estimated arrival time of the next bus, and can make his decision to wait or to switch to another bus based on the information received.

It would be best if the government could, in the process of renewing franchises, make it a precondition that real-time bus arrival times can be displayed.

Dennis Li, Mid-Levels


Clarify stance on same-sex marriage

Last month you reported on the controversy over the inability of the British consulate in Hong Kong to offer same-sex marriage to its nationals, despite the fact that China had permitted the British Embassy in Beijing to do so.

On June 11, the Hong Kong government issued a public statement seemingly removing objections to the British consulate performing these ceremonies. Since then, there has been silence. Paralysis, it seems, has set in.

Unlike the consulates of Spain and France, which now offer such ceremonies, the British consulate seems reluctant to act.

If so, it would make it appear that there are, perhaps, reasons for this that the British would rather not disclose.

Will the British consulate now make it clear that it will offer same-sex marriage ceremonies to its own nationals?

Nigel Collett, Central


Referendum stats open to interpretation

I refer to Occupy Central's referendum on political reform, conducted by the public opinion programme of the University of Hong Kong.

We have to ask what the results tell us and, from them, how we can gauge so-called public opinion.

It is made more difficult to arrive at an answer because of selective reporting by the media. We should be aiming for an unbiased analysis of the referendum results.

It was reported that more than 780,000 people voted in the referendum. We have no figures for those who actively boycotted it.

However, this is my interpretation of the figures available. It is based on the figures for the popular vote in the 2012 Legislative Council election in the geographical constituencies. The total number of people who voted in 2012 was around 1.8 million.

The pro-democracy candidates received 1,018,552 votes, and the pro-Beijing camp got a total of 772,487 votes.

Assuming all pro-democrats supported Occupy Central, more than one million votes should have been cast in this referendum.

However, it would appear, given the actual figure, 300,000 pro-democrats were not part of the voting process.

Then there are the 772,487 voters missing from the pro-Beijing camp. I assume that by not voting they were boycotting this whole polling exercise.

So that means more than one million did not vote, some I would assume because they were against it.

I think an interesting headline would be, "Over 1 million people boycotted the referendum to occupy Central".

Numbers do not lie; it just depends how they are used and interpreted.

William Cheng, North Point


Protect eyes while taking part in sport

I wonder how many of the fans watching the World Cup have ever stopped to consider why all the players appear to have perfect vision.

Is it because top-class professional sportsmen have better eyesight than us, or is it just that they take better care of their eyes?

The only soccer player to be seen wearing glasses during his career was Dutch international Edgar Davids. He wore protective glasses because he suffers from glaucoma.

Indeed, doctors and opthalmologists advise against wearing glasses while playing any form of contact sport. Apart from being inconvenient, the biggest concern is having the glasses smash in your face.

Wearing contact lenses during sport is slightly safer, but lenses are not suited for all sports. For example, it's not safe to wear lenses for swimming, water-skiing, diving and all kinds of water sports.

Other sports such as parachuting, horse riding, and car racing are also not safe for people who wear contact lenses because outdoor sports that sometimes expose participants to strong winds can cause the lenses to drop out. A better solution is vision correction surgery such as LASIK, commonly referred to as laser eye surgery.

I am an ophthalmologist specialising in this form of surgery, which has successfully treated 40 million patients around the world over the past 20 years. But for contact sports, such as boxing, SMILE - small incision lenticule extraction - is even better because there is a much smaller wound.

People should take steps to protect their eyes while taking part in sport. Contact sport can hurt not only the cornea, but can also result in traumatic cataract, traumatic glaucoma, retinal oedema, and retinal detachment.

Dr Tse Wai-ip, Central


School pupils need time for relaxation

Students in Hong Kong need to find the right balance between studying and pursuing their own interests.

There are periods lasting for weeks when they have to work hard, so they need to find the time to rest and relax. One problem in Hong Kong is that parents can be too demanding, urging their children to be competitive in school. When they get home from school, they are expected to work until late.

Young people who are put under that much pressure will not have the time to enjoy extracurricular activities. This is wrong, as they should be allowed to enjoy their teenage years and should be able to look back at them with fondness when they are grown up.

Too much emphasis is placed on exams here and this is unfair for those youngsters who are not academically gifted. They may be good at other things such as sports, or art.

I was not considered to be a "good student" in primary school. My parents were very demanding and expected me to get excellent grades. I tried hard, but things did not work out. I had little free time as a child and envied my peers out in the playground.

Students should have at least one free hour a day. They should be encouraged to follow their own interests. Childhood is about making good friends and supporting them when they need help.

Parents should not put their children under too much pressure and should help them have a happy childhood.

Atticus Chan Ling-sum, Tsim Sha Tsui


Qualified local teachers preferable

I refer to the letters by Warren Russell ("Immersion not key to learning languages", June 28) and Theodore H. T. Yu ("Imperfect NETs scheme still beneficial", June 28), in response to my letter ("Students need immersion, not NETs", June 19) about native-speaking English teachers.

Your correspondents read things into my letter that were not there.

I think the confusion was caused by the headline, which I did not write and which does not represent my position.

I did not call for the end of the native-speaking English teacher scheme in Hong Kong.

The point of my letter was that we should not prefer native speakers only because they are native speakers.

A qualified local English teacher who understands pedagogy is preferable to a non-qualified native speaker.

Several irate native English teachers have written to me insisting that all native English- speaking teachers in Hong Kong schools are excellent. I am happy to hear that.

Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus, University of Southern California, US