Letters to the Editor, February 7, 2018
Is English really a ‘core part’ of our identity?
I can only partly agree with Elbert Lee (“To protect Hong Kong’s identity, safeguard English”, February 2) on how he views the Hong Kong identity as including the English language. I believe Mr Lee has overemphasised the importance of English to our identity.
Undeniably, English makes Hong Kong different from mainland cities, the way Portuguese makes Macau different from Hong Kong. However, claiming that English is “a core part of our identity” seems to suggest that the entire population is proficient in the language, which it is not.
Just randomly find someone on the street and speak to them in English. You can hardly find someone who can respond fluently. Whether this is because the English proficiency of Hongkongers has declined is still being debated by academics.
But most Hongkongers, even if they haven’t learned the language, at least speak some English. They at least know and use some English terms such as “plan”, “timing”, “taste”, “good” and so on, inserting these words into their Cantonese utterances. We call this “code-mixing”.
English has enjoyed a high status here because it is seen as a professional language, spoken by highly educated people. But such people only account for a small section of the population. I have come across a lot of university students who are unable to fluently express themselves in English.
Yes, Hong Kong people do use more English than our mainland counterparts, due to our code-mixing practice. But only a few are fully proficient. If English is only limited to a small number, it seems unreasonable to say we have to “safeguard English” since we have never spoken it well. Of course, English plays a part in our culture. So I would say Hong Kong culture involves some English.
Anson C.Y. Chan, North Point
Retired police could beef up tobacco control
I am writing in response to your report on the Tobacco Control Office, Hong Kong’s antismoking body, battling serious manpower issues and high turnover rates (“Too few tobacco control inspectors to catch smokers in bars at night”, February 1).
This trend has been labelled “worrying” by the Office of the Ombudsman, which also pulled up the control office over its rate of enforcement action.
Further, an investigation by the ombudsman’s office found that government departments even allowed illegal smoking in their own offices, thus failing to set an example for the public.
Moreover, the number of fixed penalty tickets issued during night shifts was a fraction of daytime summons, despite illegal smoking in bars and restaurants being “most prevalent during peak hours at night”. The Health Department, under which the control office operates, was reported to have cited the lack of officers to take on night shifts.
I think the control office should follow the recommendation of the ombudsman’s report and deploy plain clothes officers during peak times for smoking offences at entertainment establishments, and consider imposing penalties on venue managers who allow illegal smoking, which will also act as a deterrent.
A task force with retired police officers could be set up to strengthen enforcement, especially during night shifts and on public holidays, as a solution for the manpower shortage.
As for the turnover issue, the control office should continue to review working conditions to alleviate staff concerns.
Lin Canyu, Kwai Chung
From snake-oil salesmen to alternative facts
I refer to a court in Inner Mongolia jailing 85 people for up to 13 years over peddling a fake cure for hair loss (“Heads roll over Chinese fake cure for baldness”, February 4). The defendants included the three ringleaders of what the report said was a “multimillion-yuan snake oil scheme promoted as a cure for baldness”.
The term “snake oil” generally refers to any product that is questionable or unverifiable in terms of quality or benefit. This matches what was being peddled by these salesmen as “traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen renal function”, as hair loss is traditionally linked with kidney weakness.
Nearly 9,000 people fell for the scam, and were cheated out of over 10 million yuan. I believe this shows how traditional beliefs and misconceptions are still prevalent in China, to the point that people end up believing such fraudsters.
I am surprised why none thought of doing some research on the internet. The proliferation these days of clickbait titles and sensationalised articles may have caused people to become more prone to imbibing information without question. People need to develop a habit of questioning “facts” when they seem too good to be true, especially when they cost you money.
James Wong, Tseung Kwan O
Why cloning is wrong on so many levels
I refer to your report on the first monkeys cloned using the “Dolly” process (“Chinese scientists clone monkeys. Will humans be next?”, January 25).
I do not support the cloning of animals, especially primates like monkeys, as they are genetically close to us humans.
I find it alarming that scientists have perfected the more sophisticated cloning technique that produced Dolly the sheep in 1996.
The feat is being hailed as a breakthrough that could boost medical research into human diseases, but I believe some things are best left to Mother Nature, who has her own rules on the creation of species.
From the ethical aspect as well, it is wrong for us to clone animals. Humans are just another organism living on Earth, we cannot play god and control the birth of other animals. It is wrong for us to create animals for our own use.
Crystal Au, Yau Yat Chuen