Letters to the editor, May 1, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 1:01pm

PolyU should insist on full disclosure

Even a cynic should be shocked by our “Tale of Two Cities”.

The first “city” is the University of Hong Kong council, rejecting a distinguished scholar for failing to tell his secretary just who had made an anonymous donation to the university, although full disclosure had been made to the correct authorities who approved the donation and recorded it. Demanding standards indeed.

In contrast stands the “city” of the council and court of Polytechnic University, which have run loss-making enterprises costing it (therefore the taxpayer) hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars. PolyU describes its companies registered in the British Virgin Islands as the “last alternative” for an exit strategy (though why a Hong Kong company is a worse alternative remains unexplained), and has shuffled its investments between its staff and administrators and even mainland executives, at values, losses and profits – and for reasons – that remain obscure (“Hong Kong Polytechnic University not required to disclose British Virgin Islands ventures, says funding body”, April 26).

We know PolyU has suffered losses, not received donations; its leaders have attempted to disguise problems and refuse to follow recognised best practice; clear and direct conflicts of interest are permitted in this public institution; and obfuscation was their response, until the “Panama Papers” dug up these unsavoury facts, buried as deep as Dr Manette in Dickens’ tale.

At HKU, the appointees of our chief executive led the charge and alleged impropriety, though none was shown. The chief executive’s appointees at PolyU should equally energetically pursue transparent governance there, especially given Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, now a government minister, was involved. PolyU’s leaders have so far set a lamentable example, though unlike Sydney Carton in the Tale, they will not be guillotined.

All the more reason to honour their public duty with full disclosure, no matter how embarrassing. They could then say to their students: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done”.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels

Born to be equal? Not in Hong Kong

Referring to the report on 800 cross-border deliveries of babies taking place in Hong Kong’s hospitals (“Mainland women gatecrashing Hong Kong’s maternity wards”, April 24), I’d like to ask a question of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which seems to have done nothing about this issue. Let’s consider two hypothetical cases.

Case 1: A child is born in Hong Kong and the parents are both residents in Hong Kong. However, the child has to wait until he or she is 11 years old to get a Hong Kong ID card. Until then, the parents have to apply for a resident visa for the child every third year, even if both parents are permanent residents in Hong Kong.

Case 2: A mainland Chinese woman crashes into the accident and emergency ward at a public hospital in Hong Kong to deliver her baby. When the baby is born, it has automatically got the right of abode in Hong Kong and will be guaranteed a Hong Kong residency.

In the first case, the parents are not Chinese; in the second case, the parents are mainland Chinese.

This is a clear example of discrimination. The couple in the first case pay taxes in Hong Kong, those in the second case don’t, so what is the benefit to the city for this unfair rule? Why should non-Chinese residents in a city that is bragging about being “Asia’s world city” not have the same rights as mainland Chinese just cross the border?

Is the Equal Opportunities Commission sleeping?

Jan Hokerberg, Tuen Mun

Our officials need their own weather vane

I refer to the letter by Lee Kwok-lun (“Red rainstorm warning was not necessary”, April 24), regarding the heavy rain on the morning of April 13.

After the rainstorm, many people complained that the Observatory should have issued a red warning signal. Many said the heavy rain caused them to be late for school or work, and some even got sick.

To be fair, the Observatory is only in charge of providing meteorological and geophysical services to different parties. It has no say in suspending work or school. The Education Bureau, by contrast, has the power to decide if there is a need to suspend classes, regardless of the Observatory warning signals.

In the beginning of this year, for example, the bureau took the initiative to suspend classes for kindergartens, primary schools and special needs schools on a day of extreme cold.

The bureau should further improve its responsiveness to weather events. To start with, it should have different arrangements for different districts, since rainfall is unevenly distributed. Some places like the New Territories often have higher rainfall when compared with other districts.

The Education Bureau should use its own judgment instead of just relying on warning signals issued by the Observatory. If bureau officers tried to see from the perspectives of the people, they would be able to respond better to their needs. This will help reduce complaints and conflicts between the people and the government.

Mary Ko, Tseung Kwan O

Loss of time and money isn’t justified

In the wake of unhappiness about the Observatory’s failure to issue a red rainstorm signal on a morning of heavy rain, I wonder: is it really necessary to issue red rainstorm signals? Such a signal makes many workers and students happy as this gives us a free day. However, we should not ignore the resultant economic losses or negative impact.

Sometimes, if the situation isn’t really serious, such a signal could cause unnecessary panic.

In the past, the Observatory had issued several such signals. However, in some cases, the rainstorm lasted only a few hours, and the rest of the day was fine. As a student, I was happy to skip class. But I wonder if it was really necessary, when weighed against the time and money lost.

Roslin Law, Tseung Kwan O

EU was right to point out HK missteps

I strongly agree with the European Union’s assessment of Hong Kong’s situation (“EU issues scathing annual report attacking Beijing on Hong Kong missing booksellers case and stalling of electoral reform”, April 25).

What happened to the five booksellers sent Hong Kong citizens into a panic. We were outraged that mainland law enforcement officers appeared to have crossed the line and undermined the “one country, two systems” principle.

This was not the only incident to stir public anger, either. The spreading use of simplified Chinese characters has also caused many to question Beijing’s intentions. It is enshrined in the Basic Law that Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy and adopt a different political and economic system than the mainland. But these recent incidents have hurt Hong Kong people’s relations with the mainland, and their trust in both the Hong Kong and central governments.

If, by promoting the use of simplified Chinese, the central government had expected a surge in national recognition and a decline in support for the localists’ cause, it would be disappointed.

Hong Kong citizens should open their eyes to what the government is doing and how it is determining our future after 2047. If we remain politically apathetic, our future will be bleak.

Harry Ng, Tseung Kwan O