Letters to the Editor, December 3, 2016
Arab-Israel conflict was avoidable
Alon Ben-Meir urges US president-elect Donald Trump to “pressure Israel” to agree to a two-state solution (“Trump must try to get Israel’s acceptance of a two-state solution”, November 19).
There is little to indicate that, as president, Trump will want to tread into a dispute that has been the graveyard of hopes for 70 years.
As Ben-Meir himself notes, even outgoing US President Barack Obama has failed in the endeavour, despite “supreme efforts”.
But even if Trump were to wade into these murky waters, why is it that only Israel should be pressured?
After all, Israel has repeatedly accepted a two-state solution over the last 70 years, whereas various iterations of Palestine have rebuffed all solutions.
On September 1, 1947, the UN Special Committee on Palestine issued a report proposing a split of the Palestinian Mandate along lines similar to those pursued by Palestinians today.
The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal. The Arab Higher Committee rejected it.
Just imagine if the Arabs had accepted the proposal. We would have had none of the murderous mayhem of the last 70 years.
Instead of destruction, there would have been construction.
Israel has 82 companies listed on the Nasdaq, more than all countries except the US and China. Imagine if this Israeli entrepreneurial spirit had been harnessed with that of the Palestinians. They would today be the mega-Switzerland of the Middle East.
They could by now have developed an Israeli-Arab-Palestinian common market, perhaps even a federation.
Instead, we have had attacks on Israel (all unsuccessful), belligerent intifadas (mostly unsuccessful), and the infamous “Three Nos” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.
How is one to negotiate with such intransigent interlocutors? And yet it’s Israel which must be “pressured”? There’s a great deal of hypocrisy among the observers of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay
Focus on better breakfast over more tutorials
I am writing to express my views on the report that children who eat breakfast do better at school (“Hong Kong pupils who eat breakfast daily ‘18 months ahead of those who skip the meal’”, November 27).
Many secondary students wake up late and rush to school without breakfast. Chinese University researchers raised the alarm after finding that children eat breakfast less often as they get older.
I think that eating breakfast can not only help students with their studies but also their health. Studies have shown that while 75 per cent of Primary Three pupils eat breakfast every day, this falls to just 41 per cent by Secondary Three.
In view of this significant decline, schools and parents must work towards preparing a well- planned meal for youngsters and teach them the importance of eating breakfast. The study found that the effect of having a nutritious breakfast is equivalent to an additional 1.5 years of education.
Therefore, why not ensure students have breakfast every day instead of focusing on signing them up for tutorial classes?
Of course, the amount and quality of breakfast also play a role. Experts say proteins and cereal benefit students, but processed meat, fast food and soft drinks have a negative impact.
Lam Yan-wing, Kowloon Tong
Consumers still duped by fitness centres
The amendments to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance have failed to save customers from unfair practices in the beauty and fitness industry.
Public hopes were high when the amended ordinance was implemented in July 2013. It clearly targeted the six most pervasive unfair trade practices in the service industry.
Three years on, and complaints have soared, while successful prosecutions are so insignificant in number that there is no deterrent effect.
These businesses are simply turning a blind eye towards the ordinance, while deploying more aggressive sales tactics.
Moreover, even if they are caught violating the ordinance, only a small number are prosecuted, with minimal penalties and just one imprisonment. In other cases, owners and franchisees have walked free due to the lack of evidence and the long-drawn investigation process. Some have even turned more unscrupulous, targeting the mentally disabled as their prey, with the amount of money involved simply preposterous.
The Customs and Excise Department and the Consumer Council have been ardently prompting the public to take precautions. However, sometimes people cannot help giving in due to the use of aggressive sales tactics or other strategies.
Instead of leaving it up to the consumers, it is up to the government to take the initiative and responsibility to beat such practices.
Customs officers could carry out undercover operations, by sending officers to beauty and fitness centres to observe their business tactics. This would ensure higher effectiveness in collecting evidence and a faster prosecution process, with heavier penalties.
It is also essential to impose a cooling-off period for contracts, in order to provide a higher degree of protection to customers. This will ensure that anyone who is coerced into signing an unfair contract can terminate the deal during the period.
Choy Pui-kwong, Ho Man Tin
Hike licence fees to fight illegal parking
Hong Kong police have launched their fourth citywide operation this year to crack down on illegal parking. Such operations have been regularly carried out during the past few years, but the problem persists.
Drivers in Hong Kong have become more inconsiderate and often park on the street at will, as if the HK$320 fine does not matter a great deal to them.
Moreover, there has been a sharp rise in the number of private cars on the road. I have been driving for more than a decade and now find it more difficult to find space in both public and private car parks.
To strike at the root of the problem, two things must be done. The first would be to sharply increase vehicle licence fees. This will definitely discourage people from owning and hence driving a private car, and it is quite likely that people will take public transport instead.
Second, officers have to be more stringent in carrying out their duties. The citywide operation should be a long-term one so that drivers are forced to fall in line. Setting up more closed-circuit TVs is a welcome proposal.
Ho Seung-kwok, Tsuen Wan
No way back for lawmakers in oaths fiasco
Winky Lai is of the view that the two disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers deserved a second chance at taking the oath (“Second shot at oath would have been OK”, November 28).
While it might be argued that this view has some merit, it is sad that the dubious duo simply cannot extricate themselves from the sorry state in which they find themselves in order to deserve a second chance.
Since the oath-taking fiasco, we have neither seen any signs of remorse from either of them nor an apology. Instead, we have seen rants to depict themselves as being in the right and everybody else being wrong.
In addition, the pair are now attempting to deflect anger over their own actions through carefully rehearsed obfuscation, that is, it’s not about them any longer but about the independence of the Legislative Council.
This is of course complete nonsense and underlines the need not to allow Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-Ching to retake their oaths
Karl Hurst, Repulse Bay