Letters to the Editor, May 18, 2016

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 3:22pm

Learn lessons from nation’s tragic upheaval

As a secondary school student I would like to comment on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution (and its aftermath) which began on May 16, 1966.

This 10-year insurgency ­affected the mainland and Hong Kong and it is worthwhile ­reflecting on it.

The Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party issued an announcement on May 16, ordering the Red Guards to be convened from schools and begin the class struggle. The declared objective was to break the “Four Olds” (old thoughts, old culture, old customs and old habits). Between 1966 and 1976, scholars, teachers and even enlightened communist leaders were classified as “counter-revolutionaries” and were subjected to extreme humiliation and violence at the hands of the Red Guards throughout the nation. Historical artefacts and cultural sites were destroyed.

The Communist Party now rejects this revolution, but its legacy remains. Even today in politics we see mutual distrust.

The different political groups in Hong Kong, including the pan-democrats and the government, should think about the ­effect their behaviour will have on youngsters. They should seek sincere dialogue as political conflict sets a poor example to the next generation. Politicians should treasure the opportunities presented by the visit of top mainland official Zhang ­Dejiang (張德江).

Young people must remember how the students were so easily influenced half a century ago with tragic consequences. They must recognise the importance of independent and ­rational thought.

Anfield Tam, Quarry Bay

New mayor will bring hope to moderates

Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory in London is a welcome antidote to his opponents who used fear-mongering to try and tie him to extremism because he is a ­Muslim. On the contrary, Khan stands for openness rather than isolationism, and integration between different communities rather than confrontation. His political beliefs will work against racism and religious zealots.

Despite recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the 21st century will be shaped by diverse leaders such as Obama (half-Kenyan, educated at ­Harvard and in Indonesia) and Khan (a Muslim, born in London to a Pakistani family and who worked as a human rights ­lawyer).

Such politicians will have a far greater influence than the bullying, brash, chest-pounding, America first, alpha males epitomised by the bigoted rhetoric of Donald Trump.

Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims who are not US citizens from the country would presumably include most heads of state of America’s allies in the Middle East.

Khan is important, because we really need to hear more moderate Muslim leaders speaking out against Islamist terrorism.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Australia

Students under pressure with limited places

I felt a great sense of pride when I learned that Hong Kong’s three leading universities had made the top 80 of the annual Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.

Most students in the city are under a lot of pressure, because of the fierce competition for a place at local universities. And it can be a lot harder for youngsters who come from underprivileged backgrounds as they have fewer resources than students from better-off families.

For instance, they cannot ­afford the fees for additional ­tutorial classes or for additional learning materials that are available to help you memorise the material you will need for exams.

What they have to do is really concentrate in class so they can absorb as much information as possible and keep revising from available textbooks, but they will still face an uphill struggle to get a place at a tertiary institution in Hong Kong.

The admission process is made even more competitive, because students from outside Hong Kong are also allowed to apply for places. I think we will see more of these foreign ­students coming here and this will lead to fewer places for local youngsters.

I believe the very limited number of university places in Hong Kong is a serious problem and adds to the pressure placed on young people.

Samantha Situ, Kwai Chung

Local schools should adopt IB syllabus

Some people would like the ­syllabus of the International Baccalaureate to replace the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE).

The IB syllabus aims to ­enhance students’ critical thinking skills. The only HKDSE ­subject that trains youngsters to think independently about social issues is liberal studies. Having an education system where you memorise knowledge and then repeat what you have learned from textbooks does not prepare you for future careers. Critical thinking is essential in so many jobs.

If in local schools students just memorise what they are told in class, while they might do well in exams, they will not be encouraged to use their initiative which is a disadvantage in a competitive work environment.

Liberal studies helps ­students develop critical thinking skills, but only on social issues. However, IB aims to train students to be able to think independently on all subjects. Therefore, Hong Kong students can be more competitive if IB ­replaces HKDSE.

However, there should not be a swift transition as local youngsters will have to adapt to the new challenges they will face with an IB syllabus.

Emily Yeung, Sham Shui Po

Renaming roads can be confusing

I always chuckle when reading letters proposing that existing roads with colonial names should be renamed to something deemed more appropriate.

I lived in Durban in the 1970s and left South Africa in 1980. I ­returned recently for a holiday, and decided to visit the streets of my then employer. On inquiring at the tourist office I was given a city map. Finding no such streets marked, I pointed this out to the counter staff. Oh yes, there was a table on the map where you looked up the old and new names.

Apparently Durban had at that time a revolutionary ­African National Congress (ANC) mayor who renamed all major streets and roads after ­comrades. As nobody knew these revolutionaries the streets were renamed after, printing a look-up table was the solution and it is still in use today.

Ian Johnston, Discovery Bay

City’s housing problems unresolved

I refer to the article (“Hong Kong families wait almost four years for public housing”, May 12).

A lack of public housing units has always been one of the ­greatest social problems in Hong Kong.

The government has made a concerted effort to construct more public housing estates. In spite of this, waiting times to get into a flat continue to rise, ­according to the latest figures from the Housing Authority.

This is despite the fact that the government’s aim was to ­reduce the waiting time to three years.

The public housing supply is still failing to catch up with the increasing demand. So the problem of providing enough affordable housing for the ­citizens who need it remains ­unresolved.

The waiting time is ­measured by the time taken ­between registration for public housing and the first flat being offered.

This highlights the overall problem in Hong Kong. Also we are still seeing steep property prices and so for many citizens the chance of owning a flat remains hopeless. Some individuals are still struggling to make ends meet and pay for daily necessities.

How to deal with the housing problem has always been on top of the “to be tackled” item list, but the government has failed to come up with long-term and effective plans. It must accelerate its public housing construction programme, but should recognise that this will only solve part of the city’s overall housing problem.

Will the waiting list for a ­public estate unit keep rising so that young people end up ­waiting 10 years for one?

Chantel Cheung, Tseung Kwan O