Letters to the Editor, June 09, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 5:12pm

Committed to using local musicians

We at the Hong Kong Philharmonic welcome feedback from the arts community, whether supportive or not.

It is from such feedback that we can better assess how to plan in the future. So, rest assured, we are listening to you.

Although perhaps innocent in intention, only someone who did not have the relevant information could have drawn up a headline to a petition that accused the Hong Kong Phil of "systematically" excluding Hong Kong talents ("Petition accuses HK Phil of 'excluding local talent'", June 5).

The facts are as follows.

On the assumption that "talents" means Hong Kong composers, conductors, presenters and soloists performing on our main stage, in the 2012/13 season, there were seven; in 2013/14 there were 11; in 2014/15 there were 21.

By no stretch of the imagination can this be deemed a "systematic" exclusion of Hong Kong talents; it is, in fact, an annual increase.

In three weeks, we are giving concerts with Johnson Li conducted by Lio Kuokman; four weeks ago we devoted an entire week of the orchestra's time to the work of four young Hong Kong composers.

Three months ago, we toured Europe and performed a piece written for us by Fung Lam in London, Berlin, Birmingham and Eindhoven, from where it was broadcast in Europe and subsequently on RTHK for the benefit of Hong Kong people.

Last December, we gave the world premiere of a piece by Richard Tsang, also broadcast on RTHK.

The annual subscription brochure does not include all activities of the orchestra each year, and after it has been printed, other projects are invariably added.

The number of Hong Kong talents may end up being lower in the 2015/16 season, but that is not a conscious decision - it is simply the way the season has evolved - and most certainly is not a "systematic" exclusion of Hong Kong talents.

Rest assured that we are retaining our commitment to Hong Kong talent as well as to talent from other parts of the world.

Michael MacLeod, chief executive, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Higher wage rate will hike up prices

While I understand the argument that the minimum wage had to be increased because of rising prices, having a higher rate will push these prices up even more.

Employers now have to pay the new rate of HK$32.50 and their production costs will go up accordingly. They will have to pass on those higher costs through raising prices to customers. So price levels will rise by even more.

Therefore, raising the minimum wage level is not a solution to the problem of low-income families facing a high cost of living.

I am also concerned that a higher statutory minimum rate could lead to higher unemployment. Employers will fire some workers in order to lower their cost of production.

Also, with employers facing a higher rate when looking at candidates for a job, they will opt for the more skilled person as they are having to pay more. People with lower skills and education levels will lose out.

People who have no work experience will find it particularly hard to cope.

More people will have to apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. As a result, the social welfare expenditure of the government will increase.

Instead of raising the minimum rate at intervals, the government should be looking to introduce other policies which can lead to lower prices in Hong Kong.

Lam Cheuk-see, Sham Shui Po

Family life will benefit from higher income

The new minimum wage rate of HK$32.50 will have been welcomed by low-income groups.

It will help them raise their standard of living in a material and in a spiritual sense.

Inflation has made it more difficult for low-income groups to make ends meet. This pressure should be partially alleviated by the new rate, which means an overall higher salary.

Hopefully, underprivileged families have more choice when it comes to buying food and can enjoy a more varied and therefore healthier diet.

They often work punishing hours just to have enough for daily necessities. With more money coming in, they can hopefully cut these hours a bit so that they can spend more quality time with their families. This is what I mean by a spiritual improvement.

Tan Qiqi, Yau Yat Chuen 

SMEs might face uphill struggle

The new minimum hourly wage rate of HK$32.50, which was introduced last month, will not have much impact on large-scale firms.

They already have to pay out substantial sums in their wages bill. The difficulties with the new higher rate will be experienced by small and medium-sized enterprises.

This policy will increase costs to these SME employers. They will have to find some ways to get more money to pay the workers.

For the SMEs that cannot get the additional sums needed to pay the higher wages bill, closure may be the only option. Those that survive may be able to stay in business, only through increasing the costs of the goods and services so the price increase will be passed on to the customer.

I think the best way for the government to ensure we all have greater purchasing power is to introduce policies that lead to lower inflation.

I appreciate this is difficult, as companies will argue they face higher costs from suppliers.

Of course high prices are related to supply and demand. The most obvious example in Hong Kong is property.

People want to own their own home, but many cannot afford to pay the higher costs. Again, this affects SMEs, because their rents for offices are high.

The government should try harder to ensure more land is developed for building flats.

I also think that more subsidies should be made available to low-income families.

With more subsidies, these poorer members of society will have greater financial support.

Some companies keep prices high, because they want to have much higher profits.

There is nothing wrong with a company being profitable. However, the message of observing corporate social responsibility is one that the government should be passing on to companies.

Firms should realise that they have a role to play in our society, of trying to ensure there is greater social equality.

Katie Lee Hoi-kei, Kowloon Tong

City should feel great shame

As Hongkongers - from the chief executive to the most radical pan-democrat - we should all be ashamed of our handling of the case of Siu Yau-wai, a 12-year-old lad [who lived in Hong Kong undocumented] , and his loving grandmother Chow Siu-shuen ("'Stateless' boy heads back to mainland", June 5).

Hong Kong - where is our compassion? No one stood up amongst the placard-waving xenophobes and said, "Hold on, there has to be a better way".

How selfish have we become?

The outcome just smacks of the most callous hectoring - from a society renowned for compassion and philanthropy.

If ever there was a case that should make us all stop and think what our values are and what have we become, then this is it.

I first came to Hong Kong in 1978, had children born here, watched us deal with thousands of refugees, collect millions for earthquake and famine victims and so much more.

I was almost always proud of our stance and what we have achieved. But in dealing with Siu Yau-wai we have been callous, heartless and self-serving.

Rules are important, but the ability to provide for exceptional circumstances underpins any civilised society.

Too many good men and women did nothing.

Shame on us all.

Kevin Styles, Kowloon Tong 

Set up strict timetable for computers

I refer to Tang Wingkar's letter ("Students need smartphone self-control", May 29).

Many students do spend a lot of their leisure time on their smartphones. Also, the devices are used by some schools for e-learning.

E-learning is certainly a very convenient way to acquire more knowledge. However, if young people are spending too much time at their computers and phones, this can be bad for their health.

A number of claims have been made about the risks posed by computers and smartphones, including radiation from mobiles. Also, if young people stare at their screens for too long, they could develop eye problems such as short-sightedness and astigmatism.

I agree with your correspondent that students need to practise self-discipline with regard to the use of smartphones and other devices.

They should allocate time when they will use them for leisure and for their studies and not spend too much time playing games on them.

If they want to relax, there are other ways of doing so, such as meeting up with friends and get involved in various sports activities.

Jolly Chau Hiu-tung, Kwun Tong