Magazine

Hong Kong Is Proud of Its Progress


Hong Kong's experience in building up a tradition of participating in public affairs through elections is still relatively young ("Hong Kong's missing asset: Voters," Editorials, Mar. 11). Before 1985, all Legislative Council seats were filled by government officials or by appointment. It was not until 1995, two years before the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), that we ceased to have appointed seats. In the 1995 Legislative Council elections, voter turnout was 36%. In May, 1998, 10 months after reunification, we had a record turnout of 53% in elections for the first legislature of the HKSAR. The Election Committee that gave Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa overwhelming support is broadly representative of our community. Mr. Tung has broad public support [as well]. A survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in early March found that more than 50% of the public supported Mr. Tung for a second term.

In the five years since the handover, we have successfully implemented "One Country, Two Systems"--an arrangement unprecedented in history. We have in Hong Kong a representative legislature, an independent judiciary, an accountable and open government, and a free press. These are the institutions which underpin developed communities around the world. We weathered the Asian financial crisis, and Hong Kong remains a leading financial center. We also introduced reforms in the civil service, education, the environment, urban renewal, and other areas. We are proud of our record, and we stand by that.

Stephen Lam

Information Coordinator

Chief Executive's Office

Hong Kong "The besieged banker" (Cover Story, Apr. 22), about J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., included a photograph of a Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi office to illustrate a reference to "Japan's stumbling banks," one of the "problem areas" for J.P. Morgan Chase, along with its exposure to the telecom sector and Enron Corp. The implication that Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi presents risks comparable to telecom or Enron, where huge credit losses have occurred, is inappropriate and misleading.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi is Japan's premier bank and enjoys one of the highest ratings among Japanese banks by the financial rating agencies. More than two years ago, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi repaid public funds borrowed from the government. Moreover, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1989, first directly and now through its holding company, Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group. Its financial results and accounting practices are highly reliable and transparent to investors.

Michitaka Mukohara

Public Relations Office

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi

Tokyo The greatest harm inflicted on Israel's economy comes from the global high-tech downturn, not the current conflict--contrary to the suggestion in "Israel: The economic cost of war" (Special Report, Apr. 29). In fact, there are many bright spots on the landscape, such as the biotech, security, and defense industries, which continue to grow, innovate, and attract foreign investors. From Jan. 1, 2001 through Apr. 1, 2002, the Amidex Israel Technology Index (which tracks 35 Nasdaq-listed Israeli companies) was down 31%--roughly equal to the 29% Nasdaq decline. Furthermore, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 2001 outperformed the Nasdaq, the Dow Jones industrial average, and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. Brainpower remains Israel's greatest natural resource--one that adapts quickly to new markets and economic situations. With these factors in mind, Israel is well-positioned for future growth.

Zohar Peri

Economic Minister

Israeli Mission to North America

New York

Like many others of my generation during the 1980s, I boycotted goods from South Africa and the companies that invested there.

There are many around the world who feel the Sharon government has used the desperation of the Palestinians to ensure that Israel continues its occupation, to avoid having to accept the Oslo Accords and end Israel's illegal settlement program. We will respond in the only way we, as consumers, know: by not buying Israeli products and avoiding Israeli companies. We will implement our own economic sanctions until there is a just peace.

Neil Hardwick

Taipei

Having just returned from a week in Israel and the West Bank speaking with venture capitalists, university and business leaders, and regular working people (including Israelis and Palestinians), two conversations stand out. One occurred in Tel Aviv, and the other in the West Bank. My hotel in Tel Aviv was less than 20% full. Most occupants were media people. On the day I left Israel (the same day Colin Powell left), the hotel manager noted with irony that with Israeli forces at a standstill in the West Bank and with no suicide bombings in a week, occupancy would fall even further. In other words, with no bloodshed there would be fewer media personnel but certainly no tourists.

Earlier that day in the West Bank I had a different kind of conversation, just as telling. In the West Bank, many Palestinian villages occupy rocky hilltops, and the hilltops are encircled by ancient, narrow rock terraces used to grow food. I was told that, for the first time in decades (if not a century or two), more terraces are being built so that more food can be grown. With so many Palestinians cut off from their former jobs in Israel, and with the collapse of the Palestinians' West Bank economy, survival requires at least a temporary return to ancient agricultural patterns.

Two conversations, each conveying the same sad reality: Without peace, prosperity is impossible; without the hope of prosperity, there is less hope for peace.

Terry Jones

New Haven

In "Israel: The economic cost of war" and "An economy in ruins," you hint that the intifada is the cause of the downturn. The intifada itself is a result of the frustrations heaped on the Palestinians by the Israeli government.

Shehab Elnawawi

Cairo

An independent Palestine is hardly a self-sufficient entity. Even united with Israel, the area is overpopulated and poor in resources. However, pulling in the same direction, working diligently in fields where Palestinians and Jews individually excel, they could pull themselves out of the present predicament. Switzerland, poor in resources, is one of the most prosperous countries in the world--a result of tolerant and civilized behavior, disciplined hard work, and a commitment to peacefully coexisting.

Tom I. Pattantyus

Ann Arbor, Mich. Your question, "Can Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov fix this mess?" has a simple answer: No ("There are no magic solutions," Latin America, Apr. 29). The problems of the Argentine economy demand that the country be set on the path to development and growth. Any proposal that worsens the recession and unemployment will only cause more suffering and instability, which historically has led to coups, dictatorship, or anarchy.

Who needs another military cycle in Argentina?

Jos? Thomaz Gama da Silva

Ouro Preto, Brazil


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