Alton Ma Choi-cheung, Siu Sai Wan, Hong Kong (SCMP letters 18 May 2010)
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Hostage crisis campaigners consider return to Philippines to put case to Aquino after 'disappointing' talks at consulate two years after shootings
Aug 24, 2012
Survivors and relatives of victims of the Manila hostage crisis are considering visiting the Philippines again to seek a meeting with President Benigno Aquino after "disappointing" talks with the country's consul general.
Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the bus siege, in which seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide were shot dead by sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza, who was later killed in a bungled rescue operation.
The families and survivors are demanding a government apology, compensation and that Philippine officials be held to account over their handling of the crisis.
A delegation including the brothers of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, Tse Chi-kin and Tse Chi-hang, and survivors Lee Ying-chuen, Yik Siu-ling - whose lower jaw was shattered by a bullet - and Joe Chan Kwok-chu, met Philippine consul general Noel Servigon and consul Val Simon Roque.
But the talks yielded only a promise to convey the delegation's message to the government, Tse Chi-hang said after the meeting.
"We do not rule out flying to Manila to meet the officials. Two years is too long for survivors and it is irresponsible for the Philippines government to leave us rushing around to follow up the incident," he said. The group also submitted a petition and observed a minute's silence.
Members of the group visited Manila twice last year and met Secretary for Justice Leila De Lima, who promised to keep them updated, but they have not heard from her since.
Lee said that depending on developments in the next two months, they might travel to the Philippines again to negotiate with De Lima, government officials and, if possible, President Aquino, to press their case.
She said her mother Lo Kam-fun, who also survived the hostage crisis, was still afraid to talk about the shootings. A source said Jason Leung Song-xue, who suffered brain damage and whose father and two younger sisters were killed, was receiving five days of physiotherapy a week and was struggling hard to learn to walk and speak again.
Chan said hand injuries he received in the siege were still far from fully recovered.
For Tracey Wong Chuek-yiu, who lost both parents in the bloodbath, the ordeal has inspired her to be a journalist and she will enter Shue Yan University to study journalism. Her younger brother Jason Wong Ching-yat, released by the gunman before the shootings, starts Form Three next month.
Li Yick-biu and his wife Tsui Fung-kwan, also released early by Mendoza, are now in London for Li to receive treatment for diabetes.
In a statement released after the meeting, the consul general said lessons learned from the tragedy were being taken seriously by the Philippine government. A new integrated land-sea-air crisis action force had been established to protect VIPs and night courts had been opened to help foreign tourists.
The group will meet Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Chief Executive's Office director Edward Yau Tang-wah today.
Anthony Wu's term extended one year to give some stability to volatile administration
Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
Emily Tsang and Olga Wong
Anthony Wu Ting-yuk has been appointed for a further year as Hospital Authority chairman amid talk Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's government is suffering a recruitment crisis as it deals with a host of controversies.
Wu, who had not been expected to renew his contract when it expires in two months, is the authority's longest-serving chairman. By the end of his new term he will have filled the post for nine years.
Observers say Leung is opting for stability amid turbulence, while having difficulty finding people willing to take the heat of a government post.
"It may be the right way to keep things unchanged for a while when the government is surrounded by so many flames," Polytechnic University social scientist Chung Kim-wah said. "After all, any new person appointed may risk drawing further attacks."
A source close to the government agreed, saying Wu's reappointment was " an appropriate arrangement for the new government, especially when it is seeking stability".
Wu, once a supporter of failed chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen, had already been given a two-year extension after an initial six-year term.
Former secretary for education Dr Arthur Li Kwok-cheung was once tipped to succeed him, but public hospital doctors said they were uneasy with Li's "heavy handed" leadership style.
"Both Wu and Li have their supporters and opposers, but I guess Li may draw comparatively more concern from doctors," former Public Doctors' Association president Dr Ho Pak-leung said.
Leung appointed five more members to his team yesterday, including three undersecretaries and two political assistants. But his team is still thought to be short seven under-secretaries and 13 political assistants.
Hints have been emerging that he is set to scale down the government restructuring plan that failed to reach the Legislative Council in its previous term because of lawmakers' delaying tactics.
A source familiar with the situation said earlier that Leung had already shelved the plan to create deputy posts for the chief secretary and financial secretary as a result of political pressure.
Wu said yesterday he was honoured to stay on.
"One of the priorities that the Hospital Authority needs to accomplish is to manage patient waiting times amid the challenges of an ageing population and the shortfall in medical manpower," he said.
"Certainly we will continue to find ways to improve the working conditions and environment for our staff."
The authority's chief executive, Dr Leung Pak-yin, said his management team was delighted by the reappointment.
Wu is not the first Tang backer to be reappointed by Leung. Allan Zeman, Ayesha Macpherson Lau and Tang's brother Tom Tang Chung-yen have also stayed on in various statutory bodies.
Emerging details of Beijing car crash in March have served to complicate an already uncertain picture after Bo Xilai's downfall
Monday, 03 September, 2012, 12:00am
As a popular Chinese idiom goes, misfortune never comes alone. On March 15, the Communist Party leadership sacked Bo Xilai from his position as party chief of Chongqing, bringing to the public's attention one of the biggest political crises to beset the party in a decade.
Three days later, an accident in Beijing, involving a Ferrari, the son of one of the mainland's most powerful officials and two young, ethnic-minority girls, served as a double whammy to the party's leadership.
The political ramifications from the twin scandals have added intrigue and additional complications to the party's once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle scheduled for the 18th Party Congress. The opening date of the congress hasn't been officially announced, but analysts expect it to start in the second half of next month.
While the Bo scandal has been extensively reported on since March, details only recently began to emerge in the crash of a black Ferrari that killed Ling Gu, the son of Ling Jihua, a key aide of President Hu Jintao, and injured two girls. Details of the accident are in today's South China Morning Post.
Despite strong reactions from within the party, Chinese leaders seem to have decided to sweep the crash under the carpet, presumably because the party can't afford another major scandal made public so close to the leadership transition.
Saturday's announcement that Ling Jihua had been appointed to head the United Front Work Department served as a strong indication that Hu wants to engineer a "soft landing" for his protégé, but it also means that the prospects of Ling securing a seat on the Politburo have dimmed greatly.
Until Saturday, Ling was the head of the General Office of the Communist Party - equivalent to the job of chief of staff to the American president. He had complete control of access to Hu's office and set his agenda. Before the crash, he was even considered a strong candidate to the join the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
Instead, Ling could be named a deputy chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a largely ceremonial post but one which would entitle him to be treated as a national leader, according to mainland political hierarchy.
But Ling's "soft landing" has apparently angered many party elders and officials, who raised sharp questions over the elaborate attempt to cover up the accident, including the forging of a death certificate, and about how a young man in his 20s could afford such a Ferrari.
Drama surrounding the incident is unlikely to end soon, as the scandal looks set to put Hu's camp on the defensive at a critical juncture when party leaders are fighting among each other while trying to find their own supporters to fill Politburo positions.
Several mainland sources said Hu had seen his political will and bargaining power sapped in light of the scandals, and this had allowed former president Jiang Zemin to wield more influence in deciding the new leadership line-up.
As previously mentioned in this column, it is now unlikely that Hu will follow Jiang's example by staying on as chairman of the Central Military Commission for two more years after retiring as party chief next month and president in March.
There has been speculation that Hu wanted his protégé, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who looks set to become the new premier next year, to be made a vice-chairman of the military commission at the 18th congress. This would help maintain Hu's influence following his full retirement.
But several mainland sources said that this was unlikely to happen, as it could set a dangerous precedent of potentially allowing the armed forces to play a significant role in the day-to-day governing of the country's economic and social development.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Many "blossomed women" are likely to suffer from emotional disorders as they face enormous pressure to get married, according to a psychiatrist.
The term "blossomed women" - meaning mature women - was first coined in the TVB 10-episode reality show Bride Wannabes that was aired last month.
It featured five single women in their late 20s to late 30s going through all sorts of makeovers in order to get hitched.
Ricci Chang Lik-chee, director of Mind Pro Psychological Medicine Centre, said the show stigmatized single women and could have added more pressure on them, resulting in mental problems such as depression.
Chang cited one of his patients, a 33-year-old nurse, who was so worried about becoming a spinster that she tried nearly every means, including speed dating, to find a partner.
Despite all her efforts, she still failed to find a mate. She began to feel desperate and suffered from insomnia and other neurotic symptoms.
Chang said he saw a 50 percent increase in patients exhibiting such symptoms after the show was aired.
Despite the increase, he said most single women suffering from depression are still reluctant to see a doctor.
Chang warned that getting married may not be the solution. He does not advise seeking partners at random.
He said single women should learn how to appreciate themselves and seek medical help if necessary.
WORLD THYROID DAY
Nadine Bateman (email@example.com)
May 29, 2012
For more than a decade, Maria Santos suffered symptoms of a thyroid disorder that left her struggling at work and unable to enjoy life.
"I felt tired all the time and found it really hard to get out of bed in the mornings," says Santos (name changed for patient confidentiality reasons), 44, a project manager at a bank. She moved to Hong Kong four years ago from the United States, where she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid).
"I couldn't concentrate properly; my brain felt 'foggy' and slow. I was moody and irritable. My skin, hair and nails were terrible - really dry and dull - and I gained weight easily … My husband used to say 'Come on, let's go to the gym, you can get out of this lethargy', but I just couldn't."
Hongkonger Milia Chan, 40, has experienced the other extreme of thyroid disorder - hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid - since being diagnosed in 1995. The service business manager with an information technology company has symptoms that include "an extremely fast heartbeat, shaking hands, shortness of breath and bad temper".
Both forms of thyroid disorder are surprisingly common (an underactive thyroid being more common) but they often go undiagnosed because many of the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. The symptoms can also be attributed to "lifestyle factors", such as stress, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercise or sleep.
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, controls metabolism. It produces hormones called T3 and T4, which tell cells how much energy to use. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid overproduces the hormones and the body uses energy faster than it should. Hypothyroidism is the opposite: the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones and the body uses energy slower.
People of all ages can get the disease, but women have it more often than men. It is estimated that one in five people worldwide have a thyroid disorder. Hence World Thyroid Day, last Friday, to promote understanding of the condition.
Dr Lauren Bramley, a family doctor who has a clinic in Central, suspects the figure is higher because many cases go undiagnosed. She recently completed a master's in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the Chinese University and is treating a number of patients with thyroid conditions.
"Hypothyroidism is now rampant," says Bramley. "Hyperthyroidism, although increasing in prevalence, is not nearly as common as hypothyroidism. Furthermore, many hyperthyroid patients can become hypothyroid."
She says the list of hypothyroid symptoms is exhaustive, which is why it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose. "For example, fatigue - a major symptom of hypothyroidism - is also present in many other conditions or the result of lifestyle factors. But thyroid disorder has more symptoms than any other disorder in the body. This is because the thyroid gland is important in so many functions of every organ."
Other key symptoms of hypothyroidism include low body temperature, sensitivity to heat or cold, difficulty waking up in the mornings, severe fatigue at around 3pm, difficulty concentrating, low mood, enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck and thinning of the outer areas of the eyebrows. Weight gain and hair loss are common complaints but are not always present. Bramley also believes pollution may negatively impact the function of the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by many factors, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, hereditary conditions, inflammation (thyroiditis) and tumours. Worldwide, the most common cause is believed to be iodine deficiency.
Dr Teofilo San Luis of the Asia & Oceania Thyroid Association says: "Iodine is available through eating marine foods such as fish, shrimps, squid, oysters, crabs and seaweeds; processed foods which have been iodised; milk; and iodised salt."
He says people affected with thyroid disorders will have goitre (thyroid enlargement) as evidence of poor iodine nutrition. However, he says that goitre is "only the tip of the iceberg" as there are "more insidious manifestations" of iodine deficiency not commonly recognised, such as reproductive failures.
"Women are very vulnerable because of increased demands for iodine during pregnancy and lactation, and if their iodine nutrition is overlooked this could result in their babies having significantly lower IQ levels."
Patients are typically diagnosed through a physical examination, analysis of medical history and laboratory tests such as blood tests. Bramley notes lab test results can sometimes be unreliable.
If the condition is hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency, San Luis says the treatment is to increase intake of iodine through iodised salt or, in extreme cases, iodised oil capsules. (Bramley, however, suggests refined, iodised salt is "not the ideal source". She advises taking unrefined sea salt which is not iodised, and supplements such as Iodoral tablets or Lugol's Solution.)
In general, Bramley advises first correcting underlying deficiencies of iron, vitamin D3, selenium and iodine, and suggests a review of heavy metal toxicity such as mercury, arsenic and fluoride.
Medications such as oral contraceptives and psychiatric drugs should also be considered. Identifying and balancing other hormones such as cortisol, progesterone and DHEA are important, says Bramley.
Chan had an operation to remove her thyroid gland last April. Her doctor, Laurence Shek, prescribed thyroxine, which she will take every day for the rest of her life. "It took my body a while to adjust, but my heart is better now and I can do more exercise," Chan says.
Last September, Santos was prescribed T3, vitamin D, DHEA and iodine supplements - she had previously taken T4 medication for years without benefit. "I'm so much happier. I've more energy - I go to the gym three times a week. I feel good when I wake up in the mornings; I'm enjoying socialising again; and I'm losing weight."
For years, Santos, a book lover, could not concentrate enough to finish one book. Last month, she read four.
14-year-old gets top grades in sciences and is no slouch when it comes to languages - and you should hear him play the piano. The shy prodigy yesterday found himself among the elite of the city's students
Jolie Ho and Lilly Zhang
Jun 30, 2012
Joseph Ng Kwok-chung might seem like a regular 14-year-old who likes Garfield comics and is shy around strangers.
But he is also a science and music prodigy who scored three As in the A-level examinations intended for pupils four years older.
Joseph, who is in Form Seven at the International Christian Quality Music Secondary and Primary School, was the youngest candidate to sit the last A-levels and earned top grades in physics, chemistry and mathematics, plus a C in English and a D in Chinese. He took only nine years to finish 13 years of school. What's more, when he was 12 he received first-class honours in the International Junior Science Olympiad and picked up a performance diploma in piano.
Joseph's parents realised they had a prodigy on their hands when he was a baby.
His father, Ng Sai-keung, says his son began to recognise Chinese characters at the age of 18 months. When he was three, Joseph was watching a fountain and, seeing it never overflowed, asked his parents where the water went.
He jumped from Form Two to Form Six after taking the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, normally taken in Form Five.
His parents were concerned that he would struggle to bond with his new classmates, but Joseph threatened not to go to school unless he was allowed to study the more advanced classes. They needn't have worried - he quickly made friends with his "seniors".
"We went to Disneyland and karaoke together," he said.
And his class adviser, Tsang Ling-sze, said Joseph worked well with his fellow pupils. "He puts Garfield strips on the boards and is eager to share the cartoon stories with his classmates," she said.
Joseph admits that his natural academic gifts would count for little without hard work.
"A lot of revision and exercises are needed," he said. "We cannot just memorise stuff but have to understand the logic behind it."
Kate Ching Kei-suet, 18, studied with Joseph. "Joseph was shy when he first joined the class, but after a time we started to get along well," she said.
Joseph is now waiting to hear whether he has won the university place he wants. He hopes to become a professor of chemistry.
Also celebrating is Matthew Li Man-hei, 19, of Po Leung Kuk Ngan Po Ling College, one of the few students to take seven A-levels. Despite the heavy workload, he scored six As and one B. While he attributed his success to hard work, his teacher, Lau Ming-wai, said: "He definitely works hard, but he also plays hard."
The sports fan didn't miss Champions League soccer matches even on nights before his exams, describing it as a good way to relax.
His results went beyond his expectations. "I didn't think so much about the results when I took the exam, and didn't expect I'd score six As," he said.
Matthew, who hopes to become a banker, spent four hours on his studies every day and read the South China Morning Post to expand his English vocabulary. He also enjoys reading philosophy books.
While even the most gifted students usually take no more than five A-levels, Matthew decided to study for seven because he wanted to meet the demands of global business programmes at local universities.
Despite their feats, they've not quite managed to match the record of Hong Kong prodigy March Boedihardjo, who in 2007 passed the British mathematics A-level with an A grade at the age of just nine.
MAKING THE GRADE
There is no second chance in this final A-levels exam, so I gave my very best.
Kong Hiu-fung, 6 grade As, Hang Seng School of Commerce
I played cards with the top-scoring seniors. The winner quizzes the loser on difficult business topics that are likely to appear in the exam. It is a fun way to learn.
Andrew Chan Yik-wing, 5 As and 1 C, Hang Seng School of Commerce
To relieve stress, I read and projected myself into the world of words.
Ma yin-yee, 5 As and 1 B, Hang Seng School of Commerce
I will stick with what I want to study, think positive and stay optimistic. I think I can still get a scholarship somewhere.
Angela Wong Man-Ling, Pentecostal School, whose results did not meet the requirements for a degree course
There are numerous choices to further my studies nowadays. Even if the result is not good, no one has to be worried.
Katherine Lai Sze-wing, Wai Kiu College, who also failed to make the grade
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