Letters to the editor, March 18, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 4:51pm

Erdogan has desire for even more power

There is little else more injurious to a democracy than closing down news outlets and choking off freedom of speech.

To take such an extreme measure based on concocted accusations that such media outlets are aiding terrorism and conspiring against the state is nothing short of scandalous. It shows the fear of public criticism felt by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite his ­bravado.

Erdogan continues to ­promote the absurd notion that Turkey is a genuine democracy, stating with his usual twisted flare that “nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in ­Turkey”. In fact, Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranked Turkey 149 out of 180 countries, between Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Erdogan was highly admired for his impressive socio-political reforms and significant economic development, which made Turkey the 17th largest economy in the world during his first and much of his second term in office (as premier).

He could have realised much of his ambitions without destroying the principles of Turkey’s foundation as a secular democracy, as was envisioned by its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and offer a real model of a flourishing Islamic democracy to be emulated by much of the Arab and Muslim world.

Sadly, however, Erdogan ­ignores the fact that his systematic dismantling of Turkey’s democratic institutions will have the precise opposite effect by directly torpedoing Turkey’s potential as a great power and squandering what the country has to offer.

Erdogan’s appetite for increasing power, harsh treatment of dissidents, religious zeal, and narcissistic predisposition made him feared by much of Turkish society yet admired by others; he is almost unanimously reviled by the international community, but dealt with out of necessity.

The agreement that was achieved earlier this month ­between Turkey and the EU in connection with Syrian refugees and asylum seekers is a case in point – he made his move to shut down the daily paper Zaman around the same time, knowing he would not be severely condemned by either the US or the EU for his actions.

Erdogan will not be remembered as the father of the new democratic and powerful nation, but as the misguided and ambitious dictator who sacrificed Turkey’s potentially glorious future for his religious zeal and burning desire for ever more power.

Alon Ben-Meir, professor, international relations, Centre for Global Affairs, New York University, US

Officials must make changes in schools

I refer to the report , “Students at breaking point: Hong Kong announces emergency measures after 22 suicides since the start of the academic year” (March 12).

The government must address this issue as students are under a great deal of pressure to do well academically. Teachers and parents be more alert and look for signs of abnormal behaviour showing that youngsters are in need of help.

The Education Bureau also must look at how it can scale back its exam schedule. Doing well in exams is so important to students. They face a lot of tests and exams, and, for some, the pressure can become unbearable. The bureau should see what modifications can be made to try and reduce the levels of stress.

I agree with Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, who heads the University of Hong Kong’s centre of suicide research and prevention, that many students “live in a virtual world, and in the real world they have nobody to talk to as parents are often busy”.

As parents often go to work early and do not get back home until the evening, they sometimes do not have time to chat with teenage sons and daughters. Youngsters end up spending inordinate amounts of time on their mobile phones.

This is a problem that cannot be ignored. One of the young people who died was only 11. If the bureau fails to take the necessary remedial measures, I am afraid we will see more suicides.

Mario Man Yuk-kin, Tseung Kwan O

Exams help prepare teens for adult world

I refer to Donald Chan’s ­letter (“Exam-oriented system needs major reforms” March 8).

The Hong Kong education system is characterised by hectic teaching schedules.

Students have to do many tests and quizzes and the ­Diploma of Secondary Education exam. This leaves them with very little spare time. But we must accept that Hong Kong is a competitive society. Exams and tests help to train youngsters for what they will face as adults.

Students are the future pillars of Hong Kong and exams give them a taste of the pressure they will be under in the workplace. As adults, they will face challenges. ­However, having dealt with a high-stress environment with exams, they will be better equipped to deal with that pressure. Exams can help them to ­enhance their problem-solving skills.

They must accept they will encounter difficulties during their studies and should not be shy of seeking help when they need it from friends and teachers.

Adam Yeung, Kwun Tong

Church should listen to LGBT community

I refer to the letter by Lee Yiu-chu commenting on the current state of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual affairs in Hong Kong (“LGBT groups’ tactics harm their cause”, March 16).

Your correspondent chose to support the Catholic Church’s decision not to invite LGBT groups to its forum on “homosexuality and an anti-sexual discrimination law” due to their tactics, comparing their actions to radical pan-democratic legislators in the Legislative Councilchamber.

I beg to differ. Most of the attendees to the forum were Catholics, and therefore would oppose the legislation of such a law on religious grounds.

Without a significant opposing view, the forum would only confirm the Catholic Church’s belief that such a law is not needed, even though a ­survey by the University of Hong Kong has shown that 74 per cent of respondents agreed same-sex couples should have at least some of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, not to mention basic rights such as being treated equally.

Your correspondent called for the public to oppose the LGBT community’s call for privileges over the majority. We should not allow the status quo to take precedence over the protection of minorities, especially on an issue such as LGBT rights, where passing a law allowing their marriage would not negatively affect the majority.

Although radical actions may not be the best way to ­promote the LGBT cause, it is high time for the government to pass a law for marriage of same-sex couples in the tolerant ­society that is Hong Kong, and I urge Hongkongers to ­support the LGBT minority under the ­rainbow flag that represents them.

Ryan Yeung Wai-yen, San Po Kong

Simple solution to checkpoint dilemma

I believe there could be a solution for the knotty problem of co-location at the high-speed rail link’s West Kowloon ­terminus. The legal and political issue can be converted into a simple commercial transaction.

Let’s say the Hong Kong Immigration Department entered into a secondment contract with its mainland counterpart, under which a number of mainland ­officers would be posted at West Kowloon terminus to assist with the clearing of passengers.

These officers would be ­doing exactly the same job as they were doing across the border. All passengers having problems would be dealt with by the Hong Kong authorities.

In this way, the mainland ­officers would be working as employees of Hong Kong immigration under a commercial contract.

The issue of the Basic Law would not be involved. Just let the ­lawyers on both sides hammer out a workable contract.

John Pang, Tai Hang

Cut waste by changing our bad habits

In the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about raising public awareness about the need for sustainable development in Hong Kong.

Many citizens now pay more attention to environmental protection, but the changes they are willing to make in their lives to be greener are relatively minor.

We still have problems caused by excessive consumption, which leads to a lot of waste. Also, some sustainable products can be expensive and not everyone can afford them.

In order to tackle the problem of waste, the first thing we must do is change people’s habits. They must ask if they need a product. When shopping, if they have a choice, they should opt for the item with less packaging.

The government can play its part by giving people more information about sustainable products and encouraging citizens to buy them.

Joanne Kwong Chung-ki, Kowloon Tong

Recycling rate in Hong Kong still far too low

The plastic waste problem is ­severe in Hong Kong, with much of it ending up in landfills. Globally, plastic waste clogs rivers, oceans, forests and other ­natural habitats.

The government imposed a plastic bag levy, but a lot of plastic is still discarded.

All citizens should ensure they put plastic products in ­recycling bins. We have a much lower recycling rate than so many other developed societies and create a lot more waste.

Kiki Leung, Yau Yat Chuen