Letters to the editor, January 17, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 January, 2016, 10:30am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 January, 2016, 10:30am

China’s ‘free market’ raises questions

Is China a “market economy” (“China knocks on the door of Europe’s free market club”, January 13)?

State-owned enterprises still dominate its economy, myriads of companies are owned or controlled by the state, both central and local governments, state investment and asset management firms, banks – often in triangle relationships.

Large joint ventures are controlled through directorships held by Communist Party members or officials. The traditional state-controlled industries, with a large share in the country’s gross domestic product, are automobiles, information technology, petrochemicals, aviation, insurance, energy, banking, railways, media, shipping, construction, metals, telecommunications and industrial chemicals.

There are also many new hi-tech or emerging industries where the firm hand of the state is involved: biotechnology, new-generation automobile technology, high-end equipment manufacturing (especially in aviation, satellite, marine and intelligent manufacturing technologies such as robotics and 3D printing), new energy sectors (such as wind and solar), and new and advanced material sectors. Most of such industries are mentioned in China’s five-year plans.

The European Union is just now starting to discuss what the 28 members think about “China as a market economy”; the judgment is still out.

Thomas Gebauer, Discovery Bay

Parking lot issues down to enforcement

I am pleased that two other readers have taken the time to respond to my letter (“Misuse of parking space for disabled”, January 4). Being very different in nature, however, perhaps the message might have been somewhat diluted.

Mr Colin Campbell’s letter highlights the lack of training given to parking management (“Disabled car owners given short shrift”, January 10). Had there been a note put up temporarily on the windscreen of the offending vehicle, I am reasonably confident that the permitted disabled driver would not have been so upset. But it boils down to training and communication.

Mr Mark Peaker’s story is more extreme and the behaviour unacceptable, no matter how understandable (“Zero tolerance on abuse of disabled bays”, January 10). On the several occasions I had to wait for a space and the offending driver returned, they have all been sheepish as I dressed them down.

The answer to this problem is that the police and traffic wardens have to take the matter more seriously. I am told that in the Tai Po area, this kind of offence hardly happens anymore because the local constabulary make a point of ticketing all offenders. Perhaps if the police information officer reading this could spread the message along…

Gordon Loch, Sai Kung

Encourage youth’s love of freedom

As someone who took part in student demonstrations in England in the early 1970s, and jointly organised the electoral eviction of the left from student union office, I think Leslie M. Tam of Singapore misunderstands the nature of student idealism and its value (“HKU students not helping their university”, January 4).

To demonstrate the falsity of the link he proposes between disrespectful student activism and declining rankings of a university, I’d note that Cambridge – where the left’s occupation of the Old Schools triggered our counter-demonstrations – has, despite such historical student disrespect, repeated recently in an 11-day occupation of its Senate House in 2010, been ranked the No 2 or No 3 university globally between 2012 and 2015.

In addition, his fears for the students themselves – while perhaps justified in Singapore where independent thought is discouraged – didn’t hurt the careers of my political opponents of the time. Charles Clarke became home secretary and Chris Smith was secretary for culture and is now Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Many of my politically active friends likewise now make contributions to high political or public office in finance, health, the arts, the law and the sciences.

Enduring independence of academic thought, and a creative contribution to public life requires us to encourage youth’s love of freedom and its drive to action, not to stamp on the idealism and sense of exploration that carry society, science and human progress forward, however uncomfortable that may be for the stick-in-the-muds amongst us.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels

David Bowie’s message to Arthur Li

Thank you for your tribute to David Bowie.

I was surrounded by David Bowie’s music growing up – my brother was a huge fan, as were most of my friends – and his “Serious Moonlight Tour” was one of the first concerts I ever went to. Bowie’s music was the soundtrack to my youth and, through his music and his art, Bowie influenced and touched millions of people around the world – an incredible achievement and legacy!

Listening to Bowie’s music over the past few days, I was struck not only by his originality, but also by his relevance even now. When I read the article, “King Arthur hits back: Li says he accepted University of Hong Kong post ‘to avert anarchy and mob rule’” (January 12), these lyrics from Changes, from Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory, came to mind:

And these children that you spit on

As they try to change their worlds

Are immune to your


They’re quite aware of what they’re going through


Turn and face the strange


Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it


Turn and face the strange


Perhaps Mr Li might learn something from David Bowie’s music.

Helen Cheung, Ho Man Tin