Letters to the Editor, May 22, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 5:15pm

English paper setters are farfrom realistic

I totally agree with the letters by Kendra Ip ("DSE English paper asks too much of local students", April 29) and Vijay Nair ("English exam papers must be consistent", May 4), criticising the latest Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education English paper.

The content of the reading paper would be more appropriate for an adult reader interested in living as an expat in Korea or critiquing the philosophy of students' attitudes to tertiary study in a US setting.

The content is mostly beyond the experience of Hong Kong teenagers and, in particular, seems to be unnecessarily obscure for a Hong Kong HKDSE candidate.

Like your correspondent Henry Wong ("Reading is key to language learning", May 4), I agree that the key to improving students' comprehension skills and enjoyment of reading is to expose them to a wide range of literature and encouraging children and their parents to value reading.

Reading should begin at a very young age if we want children to develop a love of literature. Teachers in Hong Kong are working hard to increase students' ability and motivation to read.

Setting them up for failure by setting an exam paper that would challenge tertiary students whose native language is English seems counterproductive. The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority's inconsistency in levels of difficulty over the various English papers also suggests a lack of moderation and/or scrutiny of their examination-setting processes.

As a native English-speaking teacher with experience teaching English as both a first and second language, I think we risk demotivating local students if they see, year after year, a paper that is so far beyond their abilities that they have little chance to attain even a basic pass, let alone a level that will allow them entry into university.

It's time that the HKEAA took a more realistic approach to its assessment methods.

Marieann Keenan, Sai Kung

Giving priority to buses, trams a greener step

I agree with Friends of the Earth that public transport should be given priority on our roads ("Central pollution levels are double WHO limit: study", May 12).

The green group wants policies to be introduced favouring buses and trams, such as setting up more bus-only lanes and "signalling priority at junctions to allow buses and trams to go first". These are ideas that should be accepted by the government.

I believe this would be an effective way to reduce the serious traffic congestion that is common during rush hours. The main cause of this congestion is the volume of private vehicles.

A perfect example is the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, where you see so many private cars.

Many people stick with their own vehicles because they think their journey will be too long on public transport. But with priority lanes, buses can make swifter journeys and more people will use them.

If there were fewer private cars on the road, there would be less congestion, and Hong Kong's air pollution would not be so bad. These priority policies for public transport could be implemented during morning and evening rush hours.

Also, bus and train companies need to offer additional discounts to get more passengers on board.

Thomas Lam, Tsz Wan Shan

Vote out rude legislators for sake of civility

Alex Lo's column on the loss of basic civility in public discourse in recent months is spot on ("Let's put 'civil' back into public discourse", May 15).

The rude disruption by pro-democracy protesters of a school debating contest last week was just the latest example.

The pattern was indeed set by several pan-democrat lawmakers such as "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and "Mad Dog" Wong Yuk-man.

Hopefully, in the next Legislative Council election, these lawmakers will be sent packing.

It is encouraging to see that several of the more moderate pan-democrat representatives, like Ronny Tong Ka-wah, are taking a more broad-minded view of the universal suffrage proposal. While the package is not 100 per cent perfect, it is a good starting point that can be improved upon in future iterations. In fact, the package proposed by the Hong Kong government is in many regards far superior to the systems in Europe.

Citizens in Europe are governed by unelected EU bureaucrats based in Brussels whose domains even cover the curvature of cucumbers.

Kristiaan Helsen, Sai Kung 

Proposed nominating panel too elitist

There is a preponderance of business, property, professional and indigenous villagers' vested interests in the proposed nominating committee.

Therefore, I wonder if candidates for chief executive with impeccable China-loving credentials, who are determined to move the scales more in favour of the "common man" in Hong Kong, would have any real chance of garnering the 50 per cent needed to qualify for going forward for election.

I doubt it, but then again, even if such a person did get through and were elected chief executive, he/she would never be able to get his/her policies through the same vested interests dominating the Legislative Council.

Doug Miller, Tai Po

Opponents of harmony halt city's progress

There has been much controversy over the various opinion polls in Hong Kong over the past few months showing support for opposition to the government's proposed political reforms for the election of chief executive in 2017.

First of all, there's no guarantee any opinion poll is accurate, given the small number of people polled each time. Also, some polls clearly have an agenda, for example, discriminating against senior citizens and the silent majority.

The result of the British general election says a lot about how reliable opinion polls can be. They failed to predict that the Conservatives would emerge with a clear majority.

A good government needs leadership who will enlighten people about harmony and social justice. However, no system is perfect, and there will always be some bad eggs.

Since the handover, radical parties have moved in a completely wrong direction that has sought to undermine social harmony in Hong Kong.

The political impasse will remain until they stop acting like nagging wives. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong

Country parks should be used for housing

I refer to the letter by Lam Chiu-ying ("Call for flats in country parks not feasible", May 18).

Your correspondent argues against those who have suggested that areas of our country parks could be used for housing. She says that they are too isolated from other parts of Hong Kong.

Because of that, residents would have few job opportunities, and this would create serious social problems.

However, I do not see location as a problem. Hong Kong has a very efficient transport network. You see new train lines and stations opening to meet demand from an increase in residents in certain areas.

If parts of the country parks were allocated for residential blocks, the government could work with the MTR Corporation and ensure that efficient transport links were provided.

Remoteness is not a valid argument to oppose using country parks to provide more homes. So much of the city is covered by our country parks, and surely some of that land can be used to meet the urgent need for housing.

Surely the housing problem is the biggest one the government faces, and solving it should be seen as a priority.

I think the administration has to look into the feasibility of using some of our country parks.

Irene Fung, Cheung Sha Wan

Move liaison office to solve border control

I was stunned to learn that the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou could cost HK$90 billion ("Rail link may face yet more delays", May 10).

It also surprised me that the government has still not figured out how to implement a process of two [or joint] immigration checks [including mainland immigration] at West Kowloon station without modifying the Basic Law.

It faces a challenge from some activists.

The problem arises because mainland officials are not allowed to exercise their authority in Hong Kong. To resolve this, the government could invite the liaison office of the central people's government in Hong Kong to move its offices to the planned high-speed train station in West Kowloon.

Mainland officials could carry out their immigration and customs checks in a building at the train station that also houses the liaison office.

This is similar to an embassy in a foreign capital, which is regarded as part of the territory of that country.

In the same way, this office - while in Hong Kong - would be under the jurisdiction of mainland law and mainland authorities. It could also issue visas. This set-up would not violate Hong Kong law, and all passengers could be checked.

Stephen Lam, Diamond Hill