‘Disgusted’ Hong Kong civil servants warn of strike in second petition to government over handling of protests

Alvin Lum

More than 350 Hong Kong government workers have launched a second petition to their employer in less than a month – this time with much stronger wording – saying they are “absolutely disgusted” at police’s use of force against protesters, and warning of a strike if the government continues to sit on the fence over months of unrest.

In an anonymous petition on Thursday, the group of middle-ranking civil servants condemned the force’s handling of the recent protests, including firing tear gas in railway stations and residential areas, and shooting pepper balls from close range at Tai Koo MTR station last Sunday.

The employees, from various departments, attached their staff cards, with names obscured, to prove their authenticity.

“We have lost count of the number of ‘crimes against humanity’ Hong Kong police committed and we feel ashamed to call them colleagues,” they wrote, citing UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s warning that some acts by the force could run against international norms.

More than 350 government executive officers attached their staff cards to the petition, covering their names. Photo: Handout

“If the government refuses to make any concession, it will disappoint civil servants and leave little room for dialogue. We cannot preclude some colleagues making their voices heard by taking part in marches, rallies, or strikes, to save Hong Kong from the brink of breakdown.”

Ever since the now-abandoned extradition bill triggered mass protests in June, the city’s civil servants have publicly urged their employer to listen and respond to public demands, which include a complete withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry into police’s use of force.

Petitions were launched by elite administrative officers, executive officers, government lawyers and doctors in public hospitals, while civil servants also staged an unprecedented rally.

Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong earlier warned that any rally or industrial action by civil servants would affect public confidence in them, and that the administration would “seriously follow up on any violation of regulations”.

But the group of executive officers hit back at Law, saying the government had been silent on the Junior Police Officers Association’s public condemnation of the city’s deputy leader Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who apologised for how the force handled an outbreak of mob violence against protesters in Yuen Long last month.

“We are deeply disappointed that Law has not dealt with it fairly and squarely,” the statement read.

The employees also criticised city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for “turning a blind eye to public demand and lashing out at radical young protesters last week for having ‘no stake’ in society and destroying the economy”.

Lam has repeatedly turned down protesters’ demands for a complete withdrawal of the bill and a judicial inquiry into the entire episode.

United Nations Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that some acts of Hong Kong police could run against international norms. Photo: AFP

A recent poll by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, involving more than 1,000 citizens surveyed, showed over 79 per cent and 73 per cent of respondents supported demands for an independent inquiry and complete withdrawal of the bill respectively.

The Civil Service Bureau said civil servants should continue to maintain professionalism, and should not affect public services because of personal ideals.

An executive officer working in police’s administrative wing, who identified herself as Tina Lee, said she joined the petition as she felt some police officers had gone “out of control” trying to control recent protests.

“Firing tear gas in a railway station, pushing protesters down escalators and shooting them in the head are absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

Though frustrated with the situation, she said she had no plan to resign or go on strike.

“Any escalation would do little to affect the government, which may even go on to hire newbies at a lower pay,” she said.

“Now, we at least have some like-minded civil servants.”

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