A civil servant organising a rally for government employees to speak up over the shelved extradition bill has been bombarded with anonymous nuisance calls, and his supporters have launched a campaign to defend him against government supporters’ complaints.
In a petition circulated on social media, some internet users claimed the government’s supporters had called the official 1823 hotline to complain about Labour Department officer Michael Ngan Mo-chau, who has been co-organising Friday’s event at Chater Garden in Central.
The online petition contained a letter which residents can forward to Carlson Chan Ka-shun, head of the Labour Department, calling on him to protect the rights of Ngan and other civil servants to express their views while off duty.
“I hope you can explain how complaints, if any, against Mr Ngan or any other colleague would be handled,” the petition reads.
A spokeswoman for the government’s Efficiency Office, which operates the 1823 hotline, said they received an average of 15,000 calls or written notes each day, and had received a similar number of cases on Monday and Tuesday.
Apart from complaints with the government, Ngan and another co-organiser, Transport Department employee Cheung Ka-po, also received hundreds of nuisance calls personally.
They previously said they expect their rally to attract some 2,000 civil servants, out of the 170,000-strong government workforce.
The Civil Service Code does not stop most of the government workforce from joining political activities or groups, but requires them to avoid any conflict of interest under the general principle of political neutrality.
Ngan said he did not think his plan would contravene the official code.
“Our rally will be objective,” the 29-year-old said. “We just want officials to respond to the people’s demands, we are not opposing the government.”
Cheung also said he had received hundreds of calls, but did not regret standing up for his colleagues.
“I am just providing a platform for civil servants to express their view after they finished their job, just like the government would organise public consultation meetings. We are not organising a rally to criticise the government,” the 32-year-old said.
But Leung Chau-ting, chairman of the 10,000-member Federation of Civil Service Unions, said while the pair might not have broken the code, it would be hard to argue the rally was political neutral.
“A key theme of the event will be the extradition bill, which has been so politicised. It would also be difficult for them to guarantee our colleagues’ personal safety,” Leung said, in a reference to violence that took place after recent demonstrations.
On the pair’s plan, a spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau said when civil servants express their views in a personal capacity, they must make sure they do not create a conflict of interest with their public post, or cause people to think their impartiality and political neutrality was being undermined.
“The civil service is a very important cornerstone for maintaining Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. We must continue with our professionalism during this difficult time,” the spokesman added.
The labour and transport departments both declined to disclose whether they received any complaints directed at the pair, and only said they would follow normal procedures for handling complaints.