Letters to the Editor, December 20, 2016
Bookshops and malls to blame for demise
Like other correspondents, I was not surprised by the closure of the Page One chain of bookstores in Hong Kong.
This demise was due in part to its senior management, as customers could never fathom the lack of logic in categorising books.
In each of their outlets, one was challenged to find that for which one was looking.
I speak from experience as a supplier of books to the chain, as managing director of FormAsia Books.
Despite repeated meetings with its senior staff over many years, FormAsia was unable to persuade Page One that it was both futile and illogical to display books in so haphazard a fashion.
FormAsia titles, which are focused on themes of local interest, would invariably end up dispersed on shelves far and wide that had nothing to do with Hong Kong. New arrivals in the city would throw up their arms in despair at the lack of Hong Kong books on offer at Page One.
But responsibility for the alarming demise of our bookshops also lies with the operators of Hong Kong’s leading shopping malls and is no doubt partly attributable to the negative backlash resulting from Beijing’s paranoia with censorship.
Without exception, bookshop retailers in recent years have had a hard time of it, universally banished and repeatedly relocated within the same mall to the most unattractive and least accessible locations to make way for brand-name outlets. And we know where this has led, to sanitised malls each offering identical luxury goods few of us need or can afford.
By so obviously catering to affluent mainland visitors, rather than the local clientele, these malls have laid themselves at the mercy of vicissitudes in tourist traffic.
Despite the likes of Amazon and similar online providers, bookshops in London, which I visited recently, are not in decline but are flourishing.
They offer rewarding and satisfying browsing with an amazing array of uncensored bestsellers that one can actually find without difficulty in well-organised displays.
Frank Fischbeck, Central
Sub-degree graduates face uphill struggle
Statistics released earlier this year showed that the average wage of sub-degree graduates had dropped and was on a par with what a secondary school graduate earns.
This is clearly not a satisfactory state of affairs.
Many young people sign up for sub-degree programmes as a way of eventually getting a place at a university, or because they just want to achieve a higher level of education than a secondary school leaver in the hope that they will earn a higher salary. However, it seems now that signing up for these courses is not really helping them achieve these goals.
Obviously some employers have a low opinion of sub-degree courses and this will lead some youngsters to conclude that they are a waste of time and money. You have to pay a lot in tuition fees to complete a two-year sub-degree.
I think it is tragic that young people who are trying to improve themselves and learn more skills face so many obstacles in Hong Kong, when all they are trying to do is ensure they can do better in the workplace and enjoy a higher standard of living.
All in all, it is really tragic to see that there are more and more obstacles hindering students who are trying their best to achieve a higher standard of living.
Ko Ka-ying, Tseung Kwan O
No real break for students doing diploma
Two secondary school students committed suicide on the same day last week.
It is clear that many youngsters at local schools feel under a lot of pressure.
Teachers cannot get through the whole syllabus in lessons to prepare for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exam, so extended lessons are frequently held.
As a result, students face a heavy workload and are under a lot of pressure. Schools have to recognise these problems and address them.
They must make sure that youngsters get regular breaks. If they feel refreshed, they will be able to learn more.
Also, when they go on holiday, it should be a chance to relax, and not to do a lot of additional school work.
As a senior form student preparing for the HKDSE exam, I am sick and tired of all the exhausting tests and assignments, even though it is still early in the school year.
We also have to participate in various extracurricular activities in order to gain other learning experiences.
All these different activities leave us feeling exhausted.
As I said, with additional classes (known as make-up classes) during the holidays, you do not get the chance to have a proper break.
If you ask many senior form students what they did during their holidays, they will often say the break was dominated by lots of make-up classes and revision.
This is not good for the physical or mental health and well-being of teenagers.
If they are tired, they will not necessarily do well in exams, so the heavy workload can actually prove to be counterproductive. There are even examples of some young people suffering mood disorders.
They must be allowed time to enjoy a proper rest.
The authorities have to recognise that there is a problem. They should be reviewing the curriculum.
The need to ask themselves if it is necessary for the curriculum to be so wide-ranging and if there are ways to modify and reduce the pressure that is being felt by so many students in local schools.
Lum Chi-lok, Hang Hau
Short-term measures not good enough
The air quality in Beijing and other northern Chinese cities is getting worse.
Flights at some airports have been grounded because of poor visibility.
The authorities in the capital have shut down over 700 factories and reduced production at other plants and have cut the number of private vehicles allowed on the roads.
However, these are short-term measures. Once the smog goes, the factories will start up again, restrictions on cars will be lifted. When that happens, the air quality will deteriorate again. The authorities are failing to get to the root of the problem.
Emissions from factories and cars continue to pollute the air, especially as there is inadequate monitoring of industrial plants.
The central government has to take initiatives that make a real difference and result in long-term improvements.
Aaron Lee, Tseung Kwan O
Trump must learn from his mistakes
President-elect Donald Trump has asked why the US has to be bound by the one-China policy.
I think he was mistaken in making this comment and it has angered China.
Since 1979, all his predecessors have acknowledged that China is one of the world’s rising powers, and they have not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Mr Trump has failed to respect this and he is undermining the US-China relationship.
When he tweeted about receiving a call from Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, he was taunting Beijing.
He appeared to be showing his contempt for China.
The two countries have had a good relationship and both have gained from it, but he risks ruining that.
Nothing good can come from angering Beijing in this way.
Mr Trump is not yet in office. Hopefully he can learn from this mistake and be more careful in future when he is commenting on China.
He needs to look at such sensitive international issues with greater care before expressing his opinion.
Irene Ng, Lam Tin