Letters to the editor, January 26, 2016

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 6:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 6:08pm

How did the Observatory get it wrong?

Our city appeared to have been unprepared for the polar air flow that plunged the mercury to a record low in many years. It seems logical to ask a simple question: what is the quality of our city’s meteorological service?

At least five days before the cold snap, weather offices in the US, Japan, the UK and Europe forecast severe conditions (temperatures of 0-5 degrees Celsius, a possibility of flurries) in Hong Kong.

Yet, our very own weather scientists claimed it would only be 6 degrees at the lowest.

Well, the outcome is clear. The weather dropped to 3.1 degrees in urban areas and fell to sub-zero in the mountains. No snow but we got freezing rain, sleet, hail, gales, ice on the road... If the Hong Kong Observatory had taken reference of what their overseas counterparts projected, we would not have had 130 people, including runners in a cross-country race, trapped in the mountains exposing themselves to freezing temperatures for hours.

The gale actually added to the windchill and the entire city experienced sub-zero windchill the whole of Sunday.

We are lucky that we have had no cases of hypothermia of the elderly.

The Observatory may have one of the most advanced weather detecting and forecasting systems, but apparently this equipment is in the wrong hands, or the data/forecast might have been there already but was merely ignored by the local weathermen.

Only incompetence and unprofessional practice can explain why this happened, yet our weathermen still maintain they have done a good job! (“Coldest day in 59 years unexpected: Hong Kong meteorologists describe forecast challenges as imperfect science”, January 25). This is unacceptable.

Maybe it is time we disband our observatory and procure far better forecasting services from Japan or the US. We may end up saving many lives, and not just taxpayers’ money.

It is a disgrace that our weathermen call themselves scientific officers. Our fishermen can do a better job than they.

Joseph Lee, Quarry Bay

School closure reflects our pampering

While I understand the need to close schools for those children with special needs, and kindergartens, the Education Bureau’s decision to close primary schools on Monday for cold weather was uncalled for and may reflect how Hong Kong is bringing up spoiled children (“Hong Kong shivers through its coldest day since 1957: kindergartens, primary schools closed today”, January 24).

In an age where domestic helpers are already meeting the whims of children, surely a primary school student has sufficient self-knowledge of how to keep warm! If not, there is a serious problem reflecting the lack of attention and guidance provided by the parents – the school closure seems to insult the intelligence of primary school children.

It is also naive to think that the temperature of a classroom (with over 30 children plus one adult) would be lower than that of even a 500 sq ft home (with, say, four people). With 30 children and the guidance of a teacher, surely keeping warm is not a problem, even without a heater. Nonetheless, it takes all of one hour to buy a heater from a store!

Children in North America endure minus-10 degree temperatures in snow and rain, with some walking by themselves for one or two kilometres to school. I know, because I remember this from my kindergarten years.

Donald Leung, Happy Valley

Under Xi, Beijing seeks unification

Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen was a scribe for former separatist president Chen Shui-bian’s “two countries” (one China, one Taiwan) line. Now Tsai pushes a more vague line of “national identity” and “international space”. In the run-up to the election, she would not recognise the “1992 consensus” of “one China”, calling it “but one option” (“Tsai Ing-wen is an experienced negotiator in cross-strait and international affairs”, January 16).

Given Tsai’s track record, the Americans saw this coming, which is why former US deputy secretary of state William Burns lost no time going to Taiwan, where he met Democratic Progressive Party officials on January 18. Before the election in Taiwan, the no-nonsense President Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) already found the Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou’s less separatist line of “no unification, no independence” not good enough, seeing it as a procrastinating ploy to put off unification indefinitely.

So Xi called the meeting with Ma in Singapore on the declared understanding that this was “the leader of one government meeting with the leader of another government of the same one China”, that is, “one country, two governments”.

Tsai is being reined in. “There will be no surprises, no provocation,” she said. But there will be no more procrastination on unification either. Not with Xi.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Social media addiction is only too real

I want to congratulate Ms Vanessa Sze for her letter regarding social media dictating our lives (“Don’t let social media dictate our lives”, January 13). She has hit the nail on the head. In fact, not only is it a looming danger for us, it actually has started to take its toll on the behaviour and attitudes of many people in our society.

Evidence of this is shown by how young and old are becoming more and more self-centred, not to mention selfish. Negative, even harmful attitudes are slowly developing in ourselves, undermining our family, work and social life.

All this, because of our addiction to technology.

The addiction is as real as drug addiction and can eventually bring harm to oneself, unfortunately, without us realising it.

Technology is good and has its great advantages but it has to be properly used in order to derive benefits for us that facilitate work, not hamper it, and improve our relations with our fellow human beings, not so that we become indifferent to one another.

Marylou Trinidad, Mid-levels

Little help for elderly and poor students

The chief executive’s policy address this year sparked fierce criticism in Hong Kong, as many doubted his initiatives could address the thorny issues of inadequate support for the elderly and insufficient educational services for poor children.

The problem of Hong Kong’s ageing population is nothing new. According to the research done by the Hong Kong Ideas Centre, as of last year, 63,126 elderly people were living alone or had low ability to take care of themselves.

Yet, only 28,925 elderly services places were provided. Among the proposed initiatives, only 240 elderly service places and 450 additional subvented rehabilitation service places will be added. How can it solve the problem significantly?

While enhancing barrier–free access facilities at public walkways and providing additional public facilities such as chairs and priority seats for the elderly are commendable, it is doubtful these will meet the real needs of elderly people.

The government is also doing little to help children from grass-roots families get a tertiary education. The Hong Kong Institute of Education has found that children from low-income families are 2.7 times less likely to get into a university than children from high-income families. The government has pledged to provide free quality kindergarten education, so what about other students?

Some families need help to send their children to join extracurricular activities and attend tutorial classes, so they may compete for a place in a university.

Good words without deeds are rushes and reeds. I hope the government can really help the poor change their lives through knowledge, and let the elderly enjoy their sunset years.

Taffy Wong, Lam Tin