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Monday, August 12, 2019, 11:54
Govt should get tough on the enemies within
By Tony Kwok
Monday, August 12, 2019, 11:54 By Tony Kwok

I believe there is now a public consensus, as pointed out by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, who said in a symposium in Shenzhen on Wednesday that the most pressing priority for Hong Kong is putting an end to the protest chaos and violence that have engulfed the city for the last two months. He also appealed to the public to help the Hong Kong Police Force restore peace and order to the community by strictly enforcing the rule of law.

I totally agree and fully support the police in bringing all these rioters to justice. But equally important, we must not overlook the subversives within the government. On that, I refer to a small number of civil servants, who in direct violation of their commitment to be apolitical, expressed their dissenting views against the government through public rallies, a signatures campaign, and participation in strikes. Equally problematic is the government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), which regularly provides a platform for critics of the government; and the eight government-funded universities, which have become the primary breeding ground of anti-government elements.

In respect to these rebellious civil servants, the government should draw a good lesson from a recent court case in Australia in which they dismissed a civil servant working in the Immigration Department for using a pseudonym to criticize the government’s immigration policy in her Twitter account. The dismissed civil servant took her case all the way up to the High Court in Australia, and just recently, the highest court made a landmark ruling that the official was lawfully sacked, and there was no breach of the constitution. The court rejected her claim that she had been denied a right to free speech, saying she had breached the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct, which states clearly that civil servants should be apolitical and “must take reasonable steps to avoid any conflict of interest (real or apparent) with their employment”.

I totally agree and fully support the police in bringing all these rioters to justice. But equally important, we must not overlook the subversives within the government

Based on the above precedent from a highly respected court in the common law system, the Hong Kong government should no longer hesitate in instituting disciplinary action against those civil servants who recently organized the controversial civil servant demonstration in Chater Garden, those who spoke openly at the demonstration against the government, those public prosecutors who joined the protest march organized by the Bar Association against the government’s extradition bill, and the High Court judge who joined the signature campaign, as well as those civil servants who participated in the so-called city strike on Aug 5.

I went to a government swimming pool on the morning of Aug 5 only to find that the pool was closed due to an insufficient number of lifeguards on duty. I subsequently learned that many of the lifeguards took sick leave on that day. Such taking of sick leave en masse by civil servants should not be tolerated as it goes against the public interest. Furthermore, taking a false sick leave is a criminal offense under Section 9(3) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, which states that any employee using a false document to mislead his principal is guilty of an offense and can be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment! There was a well-publicized case in the Independent Commission Against Corruption in which its effective internal monitoring revealed that one of its staff had cheated the government doctor into granting her sick leave. She was not only dismissed immediately, but also prosecuted for committing this offense. She was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment! Hence I would urge all heads of government departments to check on staff who took sick leave on Aug 5, and if they have reason to suspect that it may not be genuine, they should refer the cases to the ICAC for investigation. Let those rebellious civil servants who cheated from now on have sleepless nights, fearing that  the ICAC might knock on their door at any time to arrest them! Indeed, I would advise them to resign — the sooner the better!

Many of the rioters who fought a running battle with the police come from the eight government-funded universities. Not only are they not being grateful to the government for sponsoring a large portion of their school fees, they are endeavoring to overthrow the government and causing widespread social disruption and ensuing economic losses, particularly among the small- and medium-sized business owners. For their culpable conduct, they deserve nothing but public condemnation. Yet they managed to bully their respective university heads in meetings into meek submission with abusive language. Shockingly, we even witnessed one of them joining their students in illegal assemblies, while another had his car damaged by students. Just imagine what these abhorrent students would become someday if they are not reined in now. 

Now that most university heads have lost control of their student bodies, the government should step in by promulgating a strict code of conduct for all universities banning all teaching staff and students from taking part in any illegal assemblies. All students arrested by police would be immediately suspended, and those subsequently convicted of a criminal offense should be dismissed from the universities. Such rules are not draconian at all as it also applies to all civil servants. We cannot afford to have our universities become breeding grounds for misfits and anti-social elements. Their studies are actually heavily subsidized by money from taxpayers who have a right to expect them to become contributing members of society upon their graduation.

There is little dispute that RTHK has become an enemy within. Instead of discharging its duties to promote and explain government policies, it is in reality using government funds to attack the government! The above Australian court precedent should apply to all employees of RTHK in that they should be subject to dismissal if they use their positions to unfairly criticize the government. This should also apply to the part-time employees. While it is normal for program guests to criticize the government, such criticism should not come from the hosts, who are paid by the government. Such absurdity happens quite often with China in the Dot, a daily two-hour program in the afternoon featuring news on China. However, this program has largely morphed into a bridgehead to attack China, mainly because most of the part-time hosts RTHK employed for this program are notorious anti-China critics. Such a preposterous practice would be unthinkable in any other government broadcast station. The government should restructure the RTHK organization and create a board of governors with the authority to employ and dismiss employees, and replace the current advisory board, which is totally toothless and completely incapable of dealing with the rebellious employees at RTHK.

Only if the government has the determination to take tough action against these three categories of internal enemies can Hong Kong return to the peace and tranquility that once characterized our city.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and an adviser of Our Hong Kong Foundation. He was also the first local deputy commissioner of the ICAC.

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