Petitions, marches kick off Tsang's year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 January, 2009, 12:00am

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was greeted on New Year's Day by the familiar sight of petition letters and demonstrations on his doorstep.

Hundreds of people, ranging from domestic helpers to Chinese-medicine practitioners, gathered at the government headquarters after staging protest marches to voice various demands for the new year.

The largest demonstration, by more than 100 people, was organised by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, whose main demand was for a long-term policy on transport subsidies for low-income earners in all districts of the city.

Marching from Chater Garden to the Central Government Offices, demonstrators chanted slogans expressing discontent over increased fares at a time when wages were falling.

Outside the offices, confederation general secretary and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan urged Mr Tsang to 'show some concern for the working class and not just for the rich'.

'The chief executive is only concerned with propping up the stock market and giving out HK$100 billion to support the middle class, but what has he done for the working class?' asked Mr Lee, to which the crowd responded: 'Nothing.'

The Democratic Party and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood organised separate marches, calling for an end to further fare increases and for more help for the grass roots, including more health vouchers for the elderly.

About 30 members of the Chinese Medicine Practitioners' Rights General Union marched to the government offices, calling for greater recognition for their professional status, as well as a Chinese-medicine hospital.

The League of Social Democrats held a bicycle parade from Sai Wan Ho to the Legislative Council building, in which about 100 cyclists called for the introduction of universal suffrage.

A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said: 'With Hong Kong now facing an economic downturn amid the financial tsunami, we believe that no responsible political leaders would wish to see the community's stability and development affected by the emotional debate and conflict about universal suffrage among the different political parties.'

The spokesman urged all parties concerned 'to move towards building consensus for the electoral arrangements in 2012 to roll forward'.