Online Letters, March 21, 2017
United States is a nation of immigrants
My grandfather Albert Joseph Bialek came to the United States from Poland in 1910.
According to the Ellis Island website he boarded the ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in Bremen, Prussia. He had just completed his service in the Austrian Army. Poland at that time was divided into three spheres of influence by Austria, Prussia and Russia. Upon being discharged he returned to his father’s farm. Officers from the Austrian army made an attempt to re-enlist him but tradition dictated that he could remain at home so long as he was sorely needed on the farm.
Albert’s father gave him his brother’s travel documents and instructed him to migrate to the US. His father knew that war was coming and he didn’t want to lose his son to it. Given that these immigration papers were not in his name, he was by definition an “illegal immigrant”. He went on to become a hard-working brick mason and law-abiding citizen raising 12 children with the help of his Polish wife Mary and the rest as they say is history.
Just as Cleveland is a city of neighbourhoods so is the United States is a country of immigrants. In fact all the major cities of America at one time served as incubators for immigrants to not only become accustomed to the ways of this country but also to intermingle with each other. It’s a shame that the inner cities were handed over to the absentee landlords following the second world war. Just imagine how much stronger and united our country might have been had this unofficial tradition continued.
Gentrification is not the answer. Preventing immigration is not the solution. Intense vetting is acceptable during these challenging times but to unfairly deny one person access to the US makes us all orphans again. As a popular song goes, “Let me in immigration man.”
Joe Bialek, Cleveland, Ohio, US
City’s quality of life is in decline
Hong Kong’s ranking in global quality of living surveys for cities keeps getting lower.
Some experts have said that Hong Kong’s policies compared to those adopted by the governments of Singapore and Tokyo are flawed. Problems connected with our education system and housing remain unresolved.
The most serious problem we face is to do with housing. Most citizens cannot afford to own a flat. And those who want a public housing apartment have to join a waiting list that keeps getting longer. Citizens who are unable to get a public flat, often have no choice but to live in subdivided units which are crowded, unhygienic and expensive.
Another quality of living issue concerns our education system, especially the pressure placed on students by the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE). Many young people believe that the result they get in the DSE exam will determine their future. If they get poor results in the exam this can often lead to them suffering from depression. In the build up to the DSE they are not just having to prepare for the exam, but also have a lot of other homework and tests to do and this increases the pressure.
Sometimes it can get so bad that they take their own lives.
These are all important quality of life issues that must be dealt with by the government and they must be addressed as soon as possible.
Cecilia Tang, Yau Yat Chuen
Government must provide temporary housing
House prices and rents keep rising in Hong Kong. It is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens to have enough money to get a mortage on a flat.
In the rental market more people are being forced to live in subdivided apartments while they wait in the long queue for a public housing flat. This impacts directly on the quality of life of these low-income families. More must be done to help these people.
The government should be offering temporary flats to grass-roots families so that more of them can leave subdivided units. This would definitely improve their quality of life while they waited to get to the front of the public housing queue.
In the longer term, in its search for more land, I am concerned about government proposals to launch more reclamation projects. These can damage or even destroy sensitive marine ecosystems. I am sure more housing projects can be constructed in urban areas, for example, above shopping malls and new MTR stations as its network expands. This would also be convenient for people commuting as housing in reclaimed areas could be in more remote locations.
Citizens are not looking for handouts, they are willing to work hard and earn a living, but the government must find ways to increase the housing supply, especially for people on low incomes.
Michael Ke, Tseung Kwan O
Education can help us change wasteful habits
With more than 3,000 tonnes of food waste being generated every day in Hong Kong, our landfills are nearing capacity.
I believe the two main reasons for this volume of waste are consumerism and traditional Chinese culture. Today’s consumers here do not value food and this problem is exacerbated by local customs. Citizens organising a banquet will arrange for enormous quantities of food to be made available and this leads to a great deal of waste as so much of the food is not eaten.
It is important to educate the next generation so they appreciate the importance of preventing waste. Teachers should discuss food waste in class and explain the environmental problems that it causes. Once youngsters understand what effect their actions can have on the environment they can take appropriate action to cut the amount of food waste they generate.
Environmental groups can also organise talks, workshops and various regular activities at different schools and in shopping malls to educate citizens about the importance of protecting the environment. If attitudes can change more people will try to cut back on waste, such as not leaving food on their plate in a restaurant.
The government needs to promote what I would call a food-wise culture and mobilise all citizens so that there is a community-wide effort not to waste food.
It is vitally important for us to change our wasteful habits so that the environment in Hong Kong can have a brighter future.
Hui Wing-ka, Yau Yat Chuen
Lifelong learning helps individuals and society
I believe that lifelong learning is very important, especially in Hong Kong which is a very competitive society.
Many people are striving to improve their job opportunities so they can have an improved quality of life, so they do additional courses to enhance their education level in the hope of getting a better job. Throughout their careers they are doing courses, learning more, and increasing their level of expertise.
I agree with those who argue that lifelong learning is essential. If you do not learn new skills you will be unable to deal with innovations and new technology. Society needs citizens to do this so it can stay competitive. People who feel they have finished their education when they graduate from university are adopting the wrong attitude. They can only achieve their goals and make a greater contribution to society if they keep enhancing their knowledge.
I think citizens will find that embarking on further studies will actually enhance their lives.
Charlotte Leung Wan-hei, Tsuen Wan