Letters to the editor, December 15, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:48pm

Universities are tough on local students

Your article (“Lost for words”, December 1) highlights serious concerns.

Studying literature should be an important and enjoyable part of a rounded education. Students develop a deeper understanding of human relationships and empathy with ­different cultures past and present. So why the obsession with 12 classical texts in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Chinese course? Why are our students not studying Nobel Prize winners Mo Yan and Gao Xingjian? How about the works of Lu Xun (魯迅), or Bingxin, arguably our most profilic modern female novelist?

We need vibrant contemporary and classical pieces that enliven our youngsters’ interest.

You quoted an Education Bureau spokesman saying that publicly funded tertiary institutions are free to set their admissions policy. The minimum requirement for UK universities is grade E in any two subjects at A-level. Top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, make offers of two E’s to students who are outstanding at interview.

Why do we micromanage our universities with a more difficult entrance requirement? By having a more flexible attitude, youngsters with ability will get to university, and we won’t look ridiculous, ­claiming to be Asia’s world city but driving young talent out of Hong Kong every year.

Finally, the HKDSE Chinese exam labels half our young ­people as failures. How can this be consistent with Hong Kong students achieving world-class scores in the tests, where ­Chinese reading comprehension is a compulsory component? The scarcity of 5** grades does not make the HKDSE more respected around the world; it just makes our young people look less able than they really are.

Cheung Siu-ming, Tai Po

Too much concrete in our country parks

I have been a keen hill walker in Hong Kong for more than 40 years but am becoming increasingly despondent at the extent of natural hill trails which are being ripped up and replaced with highly visible concreted footpaths. These are out of keeping with the landscape and natural environment.

The latest act of vandalism is the hill trail leading from nearby Kam Sheung Road MTR station up to Tai Lam Country Park, where several hundred ­metres of the hill trail has been stripped out in readiness for concreting.

The demand for this work is highly doubted and to add insult to injury, no safety measures have been put in place during construction, thus exposing trail users to the danger of injuring themselves by slipping on the unprotected, very steeply ­sloping ground (as I did recently while on a night hike with friends).

It appears these ravages of the hill trails are being perpetrated by the Home Affairs Department (doubtless lobbied by some vocal twice-yearly grave sweepers but ignoring the recreational interests of the vast majority of regular trail users).

Can nothing be done to stop this nonsense?

If in exceptional cases, such work is considered warranted (after consultation with all stakeholders), it must be ­properly designed and supervised by qualified and experienced staff (including landscape architects) to ensure the footpaths are ­constructed safely and the end product blends as unobtrusively as possible into the ­natural environment and landscape.

Doug Miller, Tai Po

Mainland officials can be at terminal

As is so often the case, mountains are being made out of molehills by Hong Kong’s chattering class of politicians and “grandstanders”.

Theories about carrying out the Chinese inspection and quarantine processes in different ways now clog the airways, though I have yet to see a single one being made by someone having the required qualifications in this area.

What can be so hard about having a specially controlled area inside the new high-speed rail terminus where a crew of mainland officials carry out their assigned immigration and ­customs duties on boarding passengers?

These people need not even come into Hong Kong proper. I t will surely not be difficult to have them come into the station on a train, leave on a train and, while carrying out their duties, stay within a particular zone which can include sleeping accommodation.

If you look at how Hong Kong’s marine police work, they, too, spend 24 hours on duty on their police boat, and then have time off on land.Such officials would not even come into contact with any ­person who is not travelling to the mainland on the high-speed train.

They would have no more or less power of detention than any border official, say, on the mainland side of the Lo Wu crossing point.

They would certainly not, as our officials seem so scared about, be able to go out into the streets of West Kowloon and grab people off the street.

Bob Rogers, Sai Kung

We should all try to clean up city’s bad air

Over the last two weeks, the capitals of the two most populous nations, China and India, have been blanketed in hazardous smog.

This serious level of air pollution adversely affects the health of residents in both New Delhi and Beijing.

These cities are not alone with these issues. Hong Kong is also facing environmental problems and 2015 will be the city’s ­hottest year to date.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong seems to be ­displaying a level of apathy and disinterest when it comes to recognising the serious effects of climate change.

There are a lot of carbon emissions in the city and these emissions contribute to the bad air. This is partly due to traffic congestion, which leads to a lot of vehicles stuck in jams with their idling engines. This causes serious roadside pollution.

Another form of pollution is caused by our supermarkets, which are guilty of over-packaging.

The recycling schemes which exist have been ineffective. This puts more pressure on our landfills, which are nearing capacity. The government has yet to introduce laws which enforce serious environmental regulations.

All residents have to accept that environmental protection is a responsibility that we all share. For example, residents should conserve energy in their homes.

They can turn off all appliances before leaving home, and make use of recycling containters to recycle paper, plastic and glass.

When people are considering purchasing a car, they should think about going for low-polluting models.

We should all try to take ­public transport more ­frequently to reduce our carbon emissions.

If we and the government can accept our responsibilities, we can turn Hong Kong into a clean, lovely and healthy city.

If we acquire a reputation as an environmentally-friendly city, we will be able to attract more tourists.

Joanne Kwong Chung-Ki , Kowloon Tong

Happy with department’s chart data

Peter Forsythe makes some good points about the Marine Department’s refusal to license its chart data to third parties (“Department’s policy makes waters less safe”, December 7).

Until it follows his advice, I have a suggestion to all similarly outraged boaters: get over it.

After Navionics suddenly ­removed local chart data from my system, I bought the official ENC (electronic navigation chart). It was dead easy to load onto an iPad – this by me, someone who is computer-challenged, to say the least. The ­frequent chart updates take less than a minute to download, and the software (I use SEAiq) integrates it automatically. This way, I have the latest chart data almost instantly – weeks or months sooner than I would have it from private suppliers.

I would prefer to see Hong Kong chart data freely available to any and all users, as occurs in many countries. But this is Hong Kong, where silly bureaucracy rules. As anyone who has been in Hong Kong for very long knows, if you do what the bureaucracy asks, quite often you get what you want, more or less. I’m pleased with the Hong Kong ENC, not least because I know it’s the official version, not data filtered through a private ­company.

I have made suggestions to the department about corrections or amendments to local charts. They always act on these suggestions very quickly. That just wouldn’t happen anywhere else.

The department comes in for much criticism, and rightly so. But that’s because the top brass are often tying the hands of their staff. Ordinary department officials usually do a very good job.

P. Harris, Lantau

Governments must share the blame

I refer to the report (“HK watchdog steps up war on meat ­hazard”, December 7).

I believe there are two main factors that lead to the soaring number of adding antibiotics. One is to do with loopholes that have not been plugged by the government and the other is large ­public demand.

I think large companies are aware of the risks, but they are responding to demands from ­society. Antibiotics can increase animals’ birth rate and therefore profits.

More people are dying from antibiotics-resistant bacteria.

The government should therefore be plugging any loopholes.

The administration and the World Health Organisation are aware of the problem, but are failing to act.

I do not think food manufacturers are solely to blame. Other firms and governments must share the blame and take responsibility for the present state of affairs.

Sandy Chan Lap Kiu, Yau Tong