Letters to the Editor, August 12, 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:37am

Teachers have an important role to play

Occupy Central has become a subject of heated debate again following the chief executive's report on public consultation over electoral reforms was sent to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The report highlighted the importance of "mainstream opinion" and relegated what it termed "the other view". The chief executive has not explained the rationale for these two classifications. Teachers have a role to play to help students view this issue objectively, so they can think critically, develop their own ideas and arrive at their own judgments.

No matter what personal standpoint the teachers have, when they discuss this issue, they should explain to the students the positions of different stakeholders. At all times they must remain unbiased. Of course, students should also be given explanations of concepts such as "human rights", "rule of law", "freedom", "universal value", "UN convention on human rights", the "Basic Law" and the democratic development of our country in modern history. Then it is up to these young people to decide what is good for our community.

The harmony of the community has been damaged through political differences. Students should express their views on this and other aspects of the debate on electoral reforms. Their views are part of public opinion. And it is the ideas of the public that should be conveyed to the Standing Committee, rather than a selective report from our government. It's now or never, there will be less chance to negotiate with the Standing Committee after it reaches a decision later this month.

Tony Au, liberal studies panel head, G. T. (Ellen Yeung) College


Wishes of the people do matter

I wrote to these columns ("HK seems to have colonial relationship", July 16) in reply to the article by Jean-Pierre Lehmann ("Chequered record", July 14). He wrote of being "incandescent" at the "sanctimonious hypocritical smugness" of the West in preaching democracy. Britain, he reminded us, never granted Hong Kong democracy in 150 years of colonial rule.

In my reply I outlined the fallacy of making such historical analogies. In time the way we relate to a place and to authority changes. Hong Kong people today have different expectations, and in the debate over political reform it is these expectations, not those of the past, that should shape the discourse, as indeed they do.

However, in acknowledging Britain ruled Hong Kong as a colony, I added that "this does not mean Hong Kong today will accept a colonial relationship with Beijing, which is, in fact, what we seem to have". This warranted a reply from Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee ("HK was never a colony of China", July 29).

Mrs Ip asks what is my point, before proceeding to share her own experience of the colonial administration's reluctance to advance democratic reform. I hope restating in summary my point again has helped clarify it.

I stand by what I wrote: Jean-Pierre Lehmann may be incandescent at sanctimonious hypocrisy, and while I may agree that listening to certain Western leaders talk of God and democracy may grate (divinity is, of course, in principle and by definition undemocratic) I would not let this blind me to the wishes of the people.

Evan Fowler, Sha Tin


Real definition of universal suffrage

It is noted from Mike Rowse's column ("Young, bright and ready for democracy in Hong Kong", August 4) that in a students' debate at the Foreign Correspondents' Club the pro-Occupy Central side was defeated by the slimmest of margins by the anti-Occupy side. However, all agreed that the Occupy people had played their hand clumsily, although they succeeded in forcing a serious and prolonged debate on political reform.

But I rather think the Occupy people had deliberately misinterpreted what constitutes universal suffrage as including the public nomination of candidates, the right to be elected but not the nomination committee. It is what they call genuine universal suffrage, for the election of a chief executive, inferring that what the government is offering is not universal suffrage, so as to be able to have a bone of contention, to continue the debate at cross purposes.

In fact, reading the definition of universal suffrage together with Article 25 (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, universal suffrage is about the right to vote only. The Occupy people are therefore demanding something in addition to universal suffrage, falsely calling it genuine universal suffrage, creating a terribly fudged controversy.

As the students did not address this true-or-false question, they were debating on an unclear premise. And that is the cause of confusion on the part of Dennis Lee ("Petition has sent mixed messages", August 4) and John Cheng ("Anti-Occupy figures are meaningless", Auguet 3), both accusing the other side of being confused.

A most important issue that continues to be ducked by all sides, however, is that screening is absolutely necessary, to avoid a secessionist like Taiwan's Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian being elected.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


There are other options for students

A number of students will be disappointed that they failed to get a university place this year.

I can appreciate why it is so important to get a university degree. It is considered by many to be a basic requirement if you want to succeed in the fiercely competitive workplace in Hong Kong.

Young people face enormous pressure to try and get a good job, because of the high price of property. So I can understand those students' feelings of disappointment because they did badly in the public exam.

However, they should not feel that their futures are undermined because they failed to get into a university.

They need to realise that they have other options, such as an associate degree, a diploma and the Institute of Vocational Education.

Choosing one of those options may mean it takes longer for them to achieve their career goals, but they should see these options as an opportunity to follow a different route which can be interesting.

One of the group Scholarism's leaders did not get great results in the Diploma of Secondary Education exam, but he is obviously talented politically in his search for democratic development in Hong Kong.

He has already made an important contribution to the city. Each individual has potential which they should try to explore.

Shirley Sham Wing-yin, Yau Yat Chuen


High charges cannot be justified

The chief executive of the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers, Peter C. H. Tam ("Bill must be clear about best interest", August 5) said that I had seriously misunderstood the position of the insurance industry with regard to the proposed insurance law to protect the interests of consumers in my letter ("Insurance law would protect consumers", July 27).

This was the position reported in the article by Enoch Yiu ("Insurers should always act in clients' best interests", July 8).

I am glad he has affirmed that "the insurance industry fully supports the principle of acting in the best interests of policyholders".

The starting point must be for the insurance companies to design products that are fair and suitable for consumers.

It is difficult to see how an investment linked assurance scheme or life assurance policy, which pays a large upfront commission to the agent or financial adviser, can be in the interest of consumers who are looking for a fair return on their investment.

In some cases, the products are designed to hide the commission by using back-end charges that are not transparent to consumers or purport to give a bonus that is taken back by the back-end charges. This is an unethical practice, which could amount to fraud.

If the products are bad in the first place, I do not see how "requirements in the sales process to help ensure customers make informed decisions" could make these products good for consumers.

It is not difficult for the insurance companies to carry out a survey to find out if their customers understood the key features of the products and are aware about the charges that are being taken from their savings.

If the insurers are really looking after the best interest of their policyholders, surely this is a step that they must take? I know of many policyholders who were shocked when they learned about these huge charges.

Tan Kin Lian, president, Financial Services Consumer Association, Singapore


MTR is about trains not toilets

I refer to the letter from Gordon Andreassend ("Install public toilets in all MTR stations", August 7).

The MTR is a rapid transit specialist, taking passengers quickly to their destination. The corporation should concentrate on that rather than having to put a toilet in every station.

The status quo works just fine. If someone is in an MTR station and needs to find a toilet, there will almost certainly be a public toilet nearby. It should not be the job of the MTR to provide one for passengers.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling