A former civil servant known for taking the Hong Kong government to court has filed the year’s first judicial review application, challenging the decision to grant police more than HK$1 billion for working overtime during the past six months of anti-government protests.
Kwok Cheuk-kin, also known as “the king of judicial reviews”, said the payment amounted to favourable treatment that violated provisions for equality under the city’s Basic Law, as other civil servants clocking extra hours were not similarly compensated.
He also accused Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po of violating a separate Basic Law provision requiring the government to “follow the principle of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenues in drawing up its budget” when he agreed to the grant despite the city’s fiscal shortfall.
The Security Bureau last month disclosed that the government had paid about 11,000 police officers overtime wages of up to HK$950 million (US$122 million) over the past six months.
A letter from the Civil Service Bureau to the Legislative Council further revealed that officers had received HK$235 million in meal and other allowances during the period.
Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests since June last year, triggered by an extradition bill that was withdrawn in September. The unrest, now into its seventh month, shows no signs of ending.
Police top brass said the city’s 30,000-strong force had been stretched to the limit, working day and night and also on holidays to maintain public order.
But the officers’ overtime payments have come under scrutiny by opposition lawmakers as protesters have accused members of the force of brutality in handling demonstrations.
In his application filed to the High Court on Thursday, Kwok accused Chan and Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong of a “clear violation” of Article 25 of the Basic Law, which provides that “all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law”.
He complained that the two senior government officials had imposed no limits on police officers’ subsidies and overtime fees, while not providing the same to other public servants.
Examples he gave included judiciary employees, firefighters, doctors, paramedical personnel, and cleaning workers.
Kwok said the “favourable treatment” had increased the divide among civil servants. He wants the court to declare that the overtime payment decision has violated the Basic Law and the two government officials should bear the legal responsibility for that.
He has already written a letter of complaint to Law and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on this. The letter has been forwarded to the Civil Service Bureau.