Letters to the Editor, April 23, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 5:01pm

Internship opportunities are valuable

I refer to the article, "HKU head defends plans for mandatory student visits to mainland China amid retraction" (April 20).

I graduated from the University of Hong Kong some time ago, and I wish the university could have provided such "mandatory" exchange opportunities when I was still an undergraduate student there.

I was enrolled in a programme that did not set any workshops, exchange studies or internships as degree requirements. Without prior connections, I had a hard time finding suitable summer internship opportunities in Hong Kong as well as on mainland China.

Sometimes I wished I could have been a social science student who had to fulfil the "requirements" to complete a local internship and one overseas study experience, with sponsorship from their faculty. These requirements not only exposed students to various professional settings but also improved their employability.

As an overseas student, I came to HKU to widen my horizons and understand Greater China more. I believe that, by providing quality immersion programmes and adequate guidance and sponsorship, the plan will be very beneficial for both the overseas and local students of HKU.

Pei-Hua Yu, Kennedy Town


Students must choose their own path

The University of Hong Kong's proposal to require students to study on the mainland has sparked outrage among conspiracy theorists who think the new requirements are nothing more than a plot by the mainland to brainwash the city's students.

Motivations aside, the plan needs rethinking. Studying abroad can expand a student's horizons, enhance cultural understanding and drive personal growth. I am a strong advocate for studying abroad. If not for my year abroad, I would not have had the confidence to move to Hong Kong in my early twenties.

But the choice of when, where and if to study abroad is a highly personal decision and should not be blindly applied to all students. One friend, interested in politics, chose to study in Washington DC and landed a job in politics post graduation. Another friend, with her heart set on medicine, decided to forgo the experience to focus on becoming a doctor. A third friend spent her time abroad in Costa Rica to gain the language fluency necessary to become a high-school Spanish teacher.

Each student should be allowed to follow his or her own path and decide what, if any, study experience to pursue.

Amy Gunia, Happy Valley


Let market forces fix insurance rate

After reading your article "Concessions 'possible' for private insurance scheme" (April 15), I continue to be disappointed and frustrated with the improper use of language related to this issue. Let's be absolutely clear: once health insurance is "guaranteed" issue and "guaranteed" renewable, regardless of any conditions or usage, it is no longer insurance.

By definition, insurance uses underwriting criteria to determine premiums that are appropriate for the risks undertaken. Without those conditions present, it is strictly a government welfare programme and no longer insurance.

I'm also continually amazed at the muddled thinking and pronouncements of our government officials who seem to know very little about their areas of responsibility, in this case health care and the related insurance covers, levels of protection, and deductibles/co-payment associated with proper coverage.

Naturally, the premiums for the guarantees demanded by our health minister must be much higher than underwritten insurance, yet our health minister, in his infinite wisdom, wishes to dictate a cap of no more than three times the normal rate.

The insurance industry knows that the only people who would buy this product will be those who use it immediately, much the same way as if we mandated that automobile insurance must be guaranteed acceptance without preexisting conditions (that is, previous accidents), people would also not buy auto insurance until they had an accident. Put simply, this is ill-informed if not outright dumb and harmful to natural market forces.

The government will quickly see, if they will just open their eyes, that the only way this scheme has a chance of succeeding is to mandate that everyone purchase these high-cost policies, à la Obamacare in the United States.

Let Hong Kong remain a free market and allow market forces to fix proper rates and levels of cover.

Eugene Raitt, Tai Hang


Grateful for Cavalia's generosity

As the founder and chairman of a special needs non-governmental organisation for young adults in Hong Kong, I reached out to the management of Cavalia, for them to consider concessionary tickets to their equestrian and acrobatics show now playing at the harbourfront in Central.

Our members have disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome through to autism and developmental delay. Many are higher functioning and, with assistance, they can attend a presentation like Cavalia.

The simple truth is that there are very few events these young adults can attend, because of the complex requirements for an accompanying caregiver or parent, transportation, and even seating. Cavalia management and one of their advisers ensured we had tickets for staff and caregivers, wonderful seating and, best of all, a stunning and fun-filled show.

Music and animals - particularly horses - resonate with persons who have mental and physical difficulties: I attended with the large group that Cavalia hosted, and the looks of joy and excitement were very telling.

My thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club as sponsor, and on behalf of the Nesbitt Centre's members, staff, parents and caregivers who attended - our most heartfelt thanks to the management (plus horses, riders and acrobats!) of Cavalia.

David M. Nesbitt, chairman of the board, The Nesbitt Centre


Any help to prevent suicide encouraging

After concerns raised by the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention about media reporting on suicides, it was encouraging to read a letter by N. Pell ("Have helpline numbers in suicide stories", April 16) suggesting ways that newspapers can help prevent suicide.

For those with an interest in mental health, it can at times be hard to decide whether newspapers in the UK (which the letter writer refers to) are part of the problem or part of the solution. Sensationalised reporting on the suicide of actor Robin Williams was widely criticised, but it came from a minority of outlets. The majority of newspapers have learnt to be sensitive and measured, and they should be applauded for that.

The author of the letter made two suggestions. The first, that when newspapers report on suicide they can give a helpline, is a standard increasingly recognised in the UK. It serves as a gentle reminder that support is out there, and that message can be very important to those who are struggling.

The second suggestion was that there ought to be more "in-depth discussion" about suicide and the complex issues surrounding it. Again, we have seen more and more of this in the UK, with high-profile journalists exploring the issues in a nuanced manner, as well as public figures sharing their experiences of mental health and encouraging openness.

It can be important to share our outrage and disappointment when things are done badly, but recognising positive contributions and making constructive suggestions is also very important, and perhaps more effective in the long term.

Edward Pinkney, University of Hong Kong


Get rid of rich public housing tenants

The Lion Rock Institute has been following closely the government's housing policies. I attended last month's meeting of the Legislative Council's housing panel, during which public views were heard.

We believe Hong Kong must allocate its housing stock more efficiently and fairly. For example, we fail to understand why legislator Leung Kwok-hung, with a monthly salary of about HK$90,000, has the right to keep occupying a publicly subsidised flat. We raised the question that day at the Legco hearing.

Leung responded that he could stay there because he does not have a lot of assets. I immediately thought of my friend Sam, 25, planning to start a family with a monthly household income of HK$14,200, who is waiting in queue for a flat.

The existence of rich tenants stems from ill-designed public housing policies. We hope that the policies will be made reasonable again.

Martin Deak, research assistant, the Lion Rock Institute