Letters to the Editor, November 12, 2015
Offer training during maids' working hours
I refer to the letter by Eunice Li Dan-yue ("Offer courses to helpers on days off", November 7).
Referring to previous letters expressing concern over the numbers of helpers occupying public spaces on their leave days, Ms Li suggests they attend training courses as a "more meaningful way for them to spend their days off".
The idea of providing helpers with job training is a good one but this should be offered during paid work time, as it would be in any other job, and not during a day off when helpers, or any other employees, should be free to choose how they spend their time.
Would Ms Li be prepared to sacrifice her own days off to attend job training instead of relaxing in the way she chooses?
If Ms Li was suggesting paid job training out of a genuine concern for the helpers' welfare and a desire to help them improve future employment prospects, I would applaud her idea.
However, her implication seems to be that this training is purely for the benefit of the employer and to prevent helpers from "mixing with the wrong company".
It would be nice to see some caring and constructive suggestions regarding how we could be helping our domestic helpers voluntarily spend their time on their days off, rather than viewing them as a nuisance littering the streets on a Sunday.
Carolyn Gomersall, Sai Kung
Safety buoys can protect swimmers
I was saddened to read about the recent mishap when it seems a lone swimmer was hit by a speedboat about 200 metres offshore in Chai Wan.
Those of us who regularly enjoy the pleasures of open water swimming near the lovely beaches on the southern parts of Hong Kong Island know full well that there are dangers ahead in this regard. After consultation with the relevant government departments, our group has voluntarily adopted a policy of using brightly coloured safety buoys that you inflate, attach around the waist and tow behind as you swim.
With these devices it would make it almost impossible for a speedboat or jet ski to not see the swimmer ahead and take appropriate action.
I think it would be in the best interests of the boating and swimming fraternities if the government really promoted the use of these swim safety buoys.
While open water swimming in Hong Kong has been around a long time, recent years have seen a real boom in the activity. That boom is likely to continue.
Ian Polson, Open Water Swimmers of Hong Kong
Give more subsidies to needy citizens
Hong Kong is a prosperous international city.
However, it has serious social issues that need to be addressed, for example, the poverty gap and the inadequate supply of affordable housing.
These problems have led to an increase in homeless people. Their plight was highlighted by the death of a homeless person in a 24-hour McDonald's outlet last month, but you see them all over the city, not just in fast-food eateries.
Skyrocketing property prices rise every year. Many people just cannot afford the high rents and are forced to move into a subdivided unit, which is probably not licensed.
Conditions in some of these places are so bad that sometimes tenants would rather be outside than endure a night there ("'McDonald's better than a bug-infested bed'", November 1).
In McDonald's, they have air conditioning and a roof over their heads. There is less chance of their belongings being stolen than on the street.
The government does not seem to be dealing with the problem these people face, who have become known as "McRefugees".
It is another consequence of Hong Kong's serious housing problem.
The government needs to get to the root of the problem and review its policies with regard to housing and street sleepers. More subsidies should be provided to those who have the greatest need. It must also take further action to curb speculators, by increasing stamp duties.
Everyone is entitled to have a comfortable home.
Alissa Chung, Ma On Shan
Draconian test bad for pupils and teachers
I refer to the letter by Joyce Chung Nga-lok ("Assessment system bad for students", November 2).
There have been calls for the government to scrap the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) in schools, but these calls have been rejected by the education secretary. I agree with critics who say these tests are putting too much pressure on children and depriving them of a healthy and happy childhood.
The TSA results in a school can be used as a criterion to determine its ranking. This puts a lot of pressure on teachers to ensure their Primary Three students do well in the tests.
This unbalanced education system severely affects children's mental development. They have to study so hard that they have less time to relax with their families.
They stay up late doing homework and if they do not get enough time to sleep, they will be tired in the classroom.
Some political parties have called for the TSA to be abolished and made it part of their election platform, but it should not be politicised and exploited to get votes.
However, I do support scrapping this harsh system and reducing the stress imposed on primary students.
Vanessa Sze, Kowloon Tong
Right time to end one-child policy
The fifth plenum of the Communist Party's 18th Central Committee decided to abolish the one-child policy to help it achieve its goal of a doubling of China's economy by 2020 from the 2010 level.
I can understand why the one-child policy was introduced in 1979. At that time, China was a very poor country with a rapidly growing population. If that rate of growth continued, the country would not have the resources to cope.
However, under this policy, there was an increase in abortion rates and greater gender disparity. Therefore, I think the party has made a wise decision, given that the country has an ageing population.
Some critics say the rule should have been relaxed a long time ago. But the government needed to ensure a level of stability in the economy, which is why it waited before making the policy change.
Choi Lok-yiu, Yau Yat Chuen
China had to address social problems
I was pleased to read about the decision by the leadership in Beijing last month to scrap China's one-child policy.
It has been in force since 1979 and has caused a lot of social problems.
I understand why the government chose to introduce the one-child policy.
The population was growing and the country could not support the growth rate at that time.
However, it resulted in many women having to have abortions or be sterilised. And the number of people of working age decreased while the population aged.
This meant there would likely be a gradual decrease in productivity. There was also a gender imbalance.
Also, young people, as only children, were often failing to learn the necessary life skills needed to prepare them for the adult world.
It was clear to the leadership that it was now necessary to change a policy that had been in place for 36 years, as it could not ensure sustainable growth in the country in future years.
Now all families will be able to have two children and I welcome this change of heart by the government.
I think the problems created by the one-child policy can now be solved with the decision to scrap it.
Kimmy Leung, Tsuen Wan
Hongkongers simply love to travel abroad
A survey has found that wealthy Hongkongers splash out more on travel and luxury goods than the rich in other parts of Asia.
I disagree with the boss of the market research firm that undertook the survey that they do this because they are status-conscious and want to look good in front of others.
I think Hongkongers travel because of the strong Hong Kong dollar, not because they are status-conscious. When they go abroad, they face relatively cheap currencies.
Also, the average working hours in Hong Kong are among the highest in the world, so going for a holiday abroad is a good way to relieve the stress they feel in the workplace.
People in cities in Europe can go for short trips to other parts of the country they live in, but this is not an option in Hong Kong.
If we want to go for a short break, we will fly to places like Taiwan and Singapore.
Also, the fact that we have such an efficient airport encourages citizens to go abroad for holidays as there are so many direct flights to a wide variety of destinations.
We are citizens of an international city and are keen to travel and to learn about other cultures and countries. Spending more on luxury goods is just a reflection of an improvement of living standards.
Kelvin Tsang, Tseung Kwan O