Letters to the editor, March 4, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 4:34pm

Apple and US government both have case

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said he won’t help US authorities hack into a deceased terrorist’s ­iPhone because “the U.S. government has asked us for something … we consider too dangerous to create” and that Apple is “challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country”.

The Obama administration labelled it a “marketing strategy” and Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump called for a boycott of Apple until it complies.

Both sides are right, and wrong. The US government is setting a dangerous precedent with its overreach that could undermine privacy worldwide. But Apple also deserves a global boycott.

Apple does not seem to ­respect America’s democratic principles. It’s a corporation which has been criticised for ­alleged tax avoidance, shipping American jobs overseas, and not properly monitoring factories abroad where its products are made and where there have been allegations of poor working conditions. All the while it makes record profits.

Apple may have great products, but the means it uses to make them does not justify the end. Ordinary consumers can hold Apple accountable through a global boycott similar to the one against Nike in the 1990s [over the denial of workers’ rights at supplier factories] that forced the best-selling brand to change its corporate ethics.

Although Apple’s stated ­motives in this case may be disingenuous, it does have a point. The government’s demand ­poses an incredible threat to ­online security and privacy. It’s the latest attempt by the US to undermine its citizens’ – and others – privacy rights in some desperate attempt to combat terrorism. Given their track record, there’s little doubt US authorities would use the device to conduct gratuitous surveillance of innocent people.

The international community must pressure the US to ­respect the digital privacy of ­iPhone users, many of whom are not Americans. Recall that, following revelations of the US government’s electronic surveillance domestically and abroad, the UN in 2013 passed a resolution affirming “the right to privacy in the digital age”.

The world needs to demand more from the establishment – namely, the most profitable company and the most powerful government.

Mark Grabowski, communications professor, Adelphi University, New York, US

Simplified characters at TVB for years

I refer to the letter by Christy Ma (“TVB made a mistake with news subtitles”, March 2).

In fact, TVB Pearl has for years now used simplified ­Chinese characters as subtitles for its Putonghua E-news. This is what Singapore’s Chinese-language TV channels have done for decades following the UN’s adoption of the same as standard, together with the hanyu pinyin romanisation.

Integration or no integration with the mainland, Putonghua and simplified characters form a common language to communicate with, and between, the many ethnic groups of China. There are the same TV programmes broadcast in Putonghua and four other main ethnic minority languages on the mainland. That’s probably the realistic limit.

Within the Han ethnic group, which has three mainstream pronunciations of the same characters, such a ­common dialect is necessary.

It’s not unlike India using English for communication among its even greater number of ethnic groups.

If Ms Ma had her way, she would no doubt want people in Hong Kong to likewise use English as the only common language, so that communication with and between, for example, Tagalog, Hindi and Urdu speakers is catered for. But is that realistic?

Like it or not, Ms Ma, Hong Kong will be integrated with the mainland, and Putonghua with simplified characters is the realistic way to go.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

People with a chronic illness did not get help

The middle class benefited the most from this year’s budget with rates and tax waivers.

A government with a sound financial strategy should try to ensure the well-being of all ­sectors of society, in particular the grass roots and other disadvantaged groups.

People with chronic diseases face huge medical expenses and, in addition to physical pain, this can cause a lot of psychological stress. Successive budgets have failed to address their needs. They find it difficult to have enough to pay for medicine they must take every day.

The government should be looking to help these people and those with disabilities to relieve their long-term financial ­burden.

An administration which seeks to bring harmony to our society will recognise the obligation to take care of the disadvantaged.

Barry Kwok, Wong Tai Sin

Spending on elderly still inadequate

The government has introduced a number of measures aimed at helping the elderly, including subsidies and health-care vouchers. What is being given may look to be substantial, but that is not really the case.

The latest initiatives included providing more ­day-care and subsidised residential places for the elderly.

However, as a proportion of the total budget, spending on the elderly is inadequate, especially for a developed 21st century city like Hong Kong.

Help for our senior citizens should be regarded as a priority, given how much they have contributed to society in past decades. This has not happened in previous budgets.

In its budgets the government sees economic growth as the priority, but there now needs to be a shift of emphasis.

Michael Yeung, Sha Tin

Traditional resistance to organ donation

Given the low rate of organ ­donation in Hong Kong, the government must look into the possibility of introducing a system making all citizens potential organ donors unless they opt out. This would increase the rate.

Spain has an opt-out ­consent system, but it might be less successful in Hong Kong where the traditional Chinese belief of keeping the corpse ­intact still has a strong hold.

It could lead to disputes ­between medical staff and families who objected to a dead relative’s organs being harvested.

The best way to try and change these entrenched attitudes is through education. However, we have to accept that whatever changes are implemented, it will take time.

The government has to look at countries with a high organ donor rate and see how they achieved that.

Chan Hiu-wai, Tai Wai

Companies have duty to help the needy

I refer to the report “Hearts in the right space” (February 19).

I am very impressed by the work of these two young architects, Rick Lam Yin-cheuk and Eric Ho Lick-fai, and the contributions they are making to the community. For example, their firm, Architecture Commons, has designed pro bono a revamp of the premises of the charity Mother’s Choice in Mid-Levels.

Reading about what they do made me wonder what contribution I can make to build a ­better Hong Kong.

What this firm has done highlights the need for companies in Hong Kong to recognise the importance of corporate social responsibility. Elsewhere, firms like Facebook make regular donations to charity.

Of course businesses need to make profits, but they also have to be willing to help the needy in society.

Jasmine Kwok, Kowloon Bay

Department can intervene in MTR saga

I think that Roger Emmerton (“Phone zombies are a real ­hazard on escalators”, February 27) raises a very valid point.

He says that the long established convention for escalator use in Hong Kong, as well as many other cities around the world, is to stand on the right and move on the left.

The government is still the major shareholder of the MTR Corporation and so I question why the Home Affairs Department has not intervened in this matter of the muddled and confusing announcements on escalator use.

It is dangerous when one ­authority tries to implement rules that conflict with general territory-wide protocols. 

Our government is taking its eye off the ball and is not looking after the community’s safety and welfare. Tourists are ­bemused, so has the Tourism Commission expressed a strong opinion of this issue? I doubt it.

J. F. Kay, Lai Chi Kok