Letters to the Editor, October 17, 2015
It is time to embrace new technology
I refer to the report ("Didi Kuaidi grabs China's first internet car-booking licence from Shanghai while rival Uber sets up local company in city's FTZ", October 8).
In contrast to Shanghai's more open-minded policy, Hong Kong police recently cracked down on car-hailing app Uber. This deprives local residents of a viable alternative to taxis.
At the core of the online car booking system is the innovative technology that makes it much easier for drivers and passengers to find one another at the right time and place. This new business model is clearly superior to the old taxi system in which passengers often need a lot of luck to find a car, especially during rush hours.
What causes concern here is not just the fate of Uber in Hong Kong, but the fact that the city has lagged behind in adopting new technologies.
Almost 10 years ago when I was studying in the UK, the local bus company had already been broadcasting the estimated arrival time of buses on the web (Oxontime), a feature that only became available from Kowloon Motor Bus a few months ago.
In many kindergartens on the mainland, parents receive notices and circulars via WeChat, whereas in Hong Kong we still rely on a paper-based system.
Despite its efficiency, the Octopus card may become a major obstacle for the city to adopt more sophisticated smartphone-based e-payment systems that can create more business opportunities.
To increase the competitiveness of our economy, the government and the public need to step out of the comfort zone and embrace the endless possibilities of new technologies.
Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong
HK Chinese hold most of city's wealth
I read Yonden Lhatoo's column ("To shed its colonial mindset, HK must stop favouring white people", October 9) with a mixture of bemusement and disappointment.
Since I can name numerous overseas-born Chinese who teach English in Hong Kong schools, does this not trump the single anecdote he provided about an Eastern European who is hired as an English teacher, despite lack of fluency in the language, that supposedly proves that white people are given unfair advantage in competing for English teaching positions? Lhatoo should know that single anecdotes prove the exception, not the rule.
Lhatoo goes on to argue that white people are the highest paid at the highest levels of business. However, one statistic often given by people (though not by Lhatoo) to show the inequality of income distribution in Hong Kong is that 60 families control 80 per cent of Hong Kong's gross domestic product. I would challenge Lhatoo to identify white faces among these families. The vast majority of wealth in this city is safely held in a few Hong Kong Chinese hands.
Lhatoo says that another manifestation of colonial bias is that former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang recently said (quite sensibly to maintain judicial independence) that the Court of Final Appeal must always have overseas judges from common law countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Lhatoo strangely interprets this to imply that local judges are not good enough and that Caucasian faces somehow add credibility.
However, Li said "overseas" not Caucasian. The countries that Li listed are all multiracial and he makes no mention of skin colour.
It is Lhatoo who jumps to the assumption that the definition of qualified overseas judges from Britain, Australia and New Zealand that Andrew Li mentions must be white. How ironic.
Keith Noyes, Clear Water Bay
Rote learning not right for preschoolers
I refer to the report "Hong Kong's new breed of kindergartens: no classroom, no uniform, just kids outside playing and having fun in the dirt" (October 13).
The Hong Kong Forest Kindergarten is a nature-based nursery which operates without classrooms and uniforms.
It promotes outdoor playing and exploring nature. This is very different from other kindergartens in Hong Kong.
I totally agree with this kind of preschool education. At a young age, children should not be focusing on memorising knowledge, but should be developing their brains by outdoor activities. This helps them to develop their communication skills.
How can children learn how to communicate if everything they learn is from books? The spoon-feeding educational system is not appropriate for kindergartens.
The government should really be encouraging the kind of education offered by the Forest Kindergarten in Hong Kong if it wants to improve the quality of education that is provided in local schools.
Phoebe Ko, Tseung Kwan O
Workshops can lower students' stress
I refer to Tuan Chun-lan's letter ("Officials must coordinate with schools", October 7).
I agree with your correspondent that many students in local schools face a heavy workload and this puts a great deal of psychological pressure on them.
This is why the Education Bureau has to coordinate with schools to find ways to reduce the high levels of stress.
Having to work hard at school and then afterwards at home is also physically damaging. In order to make sure they finish all their work, many youngsters have to work late.
They do not get enough sleep and go to school the next day tired. In that state, they do not have the energy to really concentrate and apply themselves in the classroom. It is particularly difficult for younger children at primary level if they are not getting enough sleep.
Additional pressure is put on children if their parents sign them up for a lot of different extracurricular activities. This can range from activities such as learning a musical instrument and ballet to tutorial classes to improve their performance in a particular subject.
The parents' motives are good - they want their children to get to university and have successful careers. But, again, more pressure is put on them, especially if they are not being given enough time to relax.
Youngsters must be given the time to have hobbies and other interests. In this way, they can find out what interests them and what career path they might want to follow. Parents in Hong Kong often look at careers in a fairly narrow way, but there are many options and different kinds of professions.
Teens should have the freedom to discover their talent. This may not be possible if their school workload is too heavy and there are too many after-school activities.
Schools need to organise more workshops so that children can talk about themselves and what they want to do. And the schools should work with parents and children with a view to giving these young people a bit more freedom.
The priority must be to try and reduce stress levels.
Yang Tsz-ching, Yuen Long
English is still an important language
I refer to Michael Chugani's column ("Time to end our obsession with English" October 6).
I agree with what Chugani said that not many Hong Kong people, even government officials, can speak fluent English.
Also, the English standard is on steady decline in Hong Kong. Compare that with Singapore, where English is widely spoken. In Hong Kong, local people seldom communicate with each other in English.
However, despite falling standards we should not throw in the towel as English is the most widely spoken language in the world.
As a Hong Kong student, I appreciate how important it is to learn English. I use it with my peers at school.
I see the language as giving me the opportunity to integrate with the global community. It is my link with the rest of the world and can help me to broaden my horizons.
More Hongkongers may be learning Putonghua instead.
That is understandable given that our economy depends on the people who come from the mainland and buy products here. But, we should not ignore the importance of English. Surely citizens want to know what is happening in the world.
Young people in Hong Kong have to keep learning English.
Christine Chan, Tseung Kwan O
Vulnerable elderly are at risk online
I refer to the report on the Elizabeth Kummerfeld drug smuggling case ("From Fifth Avenue penthouse to Hong Kong jail: How an American socialite became an unwitting crystal meth drug mule", October 12).
The elderly woman seemed an unlikely mule and the report does not make it clear how the customs agents knew to stop her in the first place. Random bag check of an octogenarian in a wheelchair?
For her part, the circumstances point towards a profound gullibility.
It is worrying that she could get suckered out of her entire life savings through online scams. Information about effective online donating (for example, www.givewell.org should be more widespread, and perhaps marketed especially towards elderly, single, philanthropic people like Mrs Kummerfeld.
It was merciful of the Department of Justice to let this woman out of prison, even though its reason for doing so - "because she had bad eyesight" - is, as her barrister put it, "very unusual". They couldn't just say that, in this case, ignorance was an acceptable excuse for breaking the law.
It's another twist of an already peculiar story, one that will probably only embolden the fraudsters preying on our elderly online.
Andrew J. Condon, Lantau