Letters to the editor, March 27, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2016, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2016, 12:16am

Independent Hong Kong is a non-starter

The University of Hong Kong student magazine Undergrad has called for the independence of Hong Kong [in 2047].

The students have demanded that, firstly, the United ­Nations recognises Hong Kong as an independent country; secondly, Hong Kong forms its own democratic government; and thirdly, Hongkongers formulate their own constitution. This is an unrealistic fantasy.

Clearly it was written without legal advice. Firstly, admission to membership of the UN requires approval by the ­General Assembly upon the recommendation of the ­Security Council.

The Security Council is comprised of 15 nations, five of which are permanent members, whereas the other 10 are non-permanent members.

The five permanent members – China, France, ­Russian Federation, the United States and the United Kingdom – have a special voting power known as the “right to veto” and if any one of the five permanent members casts a negative vote in the ­Security Council, the resolution will not be approved.

China would not vote for Hong Kong to become an independent nation, which means that no recommendation would be made by the Security Council to the UN General Assembly at all to accept Hong Kong as an independent nation.

Secondly, any government that it formed and any constitution it drafted would be unsustainable and indefensible – Hong Kong could have bought fighter aircrafts and battleships from the US like Taiwan but ­soldiers can’t be bought, they have to be trained.

The Chinese army is legally authorised by the Chinese constitution to defend the nation and to combat any secession ­activities, which means it could take down and dismantle this defenceless government at any time.

Lawrence Ma, chairman, China-Australia Legal Exchange Foundation

Students, like Thatcher, need reality check

Alex Lo raises an interesting point about China having to be a democracy before it can debate independence for Hong Kong (“Nationalism reigns whatever the ideology”, March 19).

I believe the only real prospect of Hong Kong ever ­becoming independent and being able to maintain that independence would be if China returned to the weak state it endured in the 19th century. In such circumstances, being politically, economically and militarily weak, the Chinese government might be forced to grant independence to Hong Kong.

However, the prospect of China being reduced to such a weak state is virtually zero.

Even if it got independence, could Hong Kong maintain it if it was pitched against its enormous neighbour? As British premier Margaret Thatcher’s advisers explained to her when she was considering the possibility of independence, Hong Kong is militarily indefensible.

Assuming then that there was a declaration of independence in 2047, it would be interesting to discuss the situation after such a declaration.

Since the University of Hong Kong student magazine raised the issue, why not subject the topic to rigorous academic scrutiny? If you’re going to convince people to support independence, it is only right that they have the fullest picture of the risks so they can decide.

I believe some of the possible political, economic and military scenarios for the localists, ­assuming they are in power in 2047, would make for very uncomfortable reading.

Danny Chung, Tai Po

Andrew Kam did fine job at Disneyland

I was saddened to learn that ­Andrew Kam, the managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, had decided to resign. He had been in the post since 2008, and as far as I could tell, he did a great job.

He was able to bring substantial economic benefits to the theme park. It was doing very well until the drop off of mainland tourists over the last 12 months.

He was a very good leader for Disneyland, so it is a shame he decided to stand down. I hope the new managing director, Samuel Lau, will carry on the good work done by Mr Kam.

I realise the economic figures of late have not been good and hope the new leader will make the right decisions to rectify this.

Angel Au, Sham Shui Po

Having more universities is not the answer

I refer to the letter by Walter Chong (“Not enough places at local universities”, March 7).

Your correspondent said that many youngsters who failed to get a place at a local university chose to study for associate ­degrees and ended up with certificates which were “fairly ­useless”.

I understand the argument in favour of having more universities, and therefore offering additional undergraduate places, but every coin has two sides.

With many more graduates, a degree would be devalued, for example, in the eyes of prospective employers, because they would think it is now ­much ­easier to get into a university.

A university degree would end up having the value of today’s associate degrees.

Not all youngsters can get to a university. We need a balanced workforce, so that some people can do the jobs that do not require a degree.

Universities should be aiming only to recruit the elite academically, that is, those who did well in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam.

Building more universities would be a waste of money. Those youngsters who are now calling for more universities should instead be concentrating on doing well in the DSE exam so they can get one of the coveted places at a local university.

Andy Yeung, Tiu Keng Leng

Two sets of subtitles on TV are feasible

Regarding the controversy over the use of simplified Chinese characters on some TVB broadcasts, I am at a loss why it is being framed as either traditional or simplified; it can be both.

With digital broadcasting at least, there are several subtitle streams.

On Hong Kong stations, the viewer can theoretically choose from English, traditional or ­simplified Chinese.

In practice, there are hardly any local shows with English subtitles, or often you actually get Chinese despite the label, at least the last time I bothered to try. However, that’s another issue. But there is no technical reason not to provide both ­Chinese scripts for every broadcast.

Alan Sargent, Lamma

Keep politics out of debate on characters

The recent debate about the use of simplified Chinese characters looks like a thinly disguised proxy for “mainlandisation”. TVB received 10,000 complaints for using the script in subtitles and the Education Bureau felt ­compelled to deny plans to teach the script in schools.

Academics and linguists are avoiding the issue, leaving the field clear for specious opposition. One such example is the letter from Tse Ka-wing (“Why simplified Chinese should not be a subject”, February 18).

He argues that ­“students and teachers have no time for this extra subject”. This is not a ­subject like maths or chemistry requiring years of study. A Primary Six or Secondary One student would need only one term to master the ­critical mass of 1,000 simplified characters. The remaining 2,000 out of the most common 3,000 characters are still in the traditional form.

The student would then need to learn a further 1,235 ­simplified characters which make up the “Complete List of Simplified Characters” published by the mainland government in 1986. The student would now be equipped to do this in his own time.

Mr Tse says it is “confusing” to learn the two forms of script. Surely no more confusing than learning Putonghua and Cantonese at the same time.

Take for example the words chou and chao which in Putonghua mean stinky and noisy respectively. In Cantonese, the two words in that order mean noisy and stinky. The exact reverse. Converting from traditional to simplified is not as confusing as the other way round. It would also be less confusing, for ­example, to write the word la (salted) in simplified form, which would save a full eight strokes of the pen.

As a long-term resident here with a reasonable grasp of both scripts, I am not advocating, nor is Beijing, the replacement of the traditional script here. Let’s keep politics out of it and focus on the practical benefits to those seeking wider access to the mainland for tourism, business or academic reasons.

Alan Wallwork, Sheung Shui