Expatriates threaten to go to court over localisation

EXPATRIATE civil servants are losing patience in their battle against the Government's localisation policy and have warned that they may take legal action within two weeks.

The Association of Expatriate Civil Servants will decide whether it will take the issue to court after a meeting with the Secretary for Civil Service, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, on Friday.

Chairman Royston Griffey said the association could not wait indefinitely while the policy continued to drive its members out of the public sector.

Many others were under threat, he said.

Mr Griffey said the association wanted the Government either to change the policy, because it contravened the Bill of Rights, or to extend the contracts of overseas officers pending a review on the definition of ''local''.

''If the meeting fails, I will consider instructing our solicitors to commence proceedings, because I was given the authority by the executive council last week to start action when I think fit,'' he said.

He warned that this could happen within two weeks.

The association had raised sufficient funds for a legal battle and it had a perfect test case to start proceedings, he said.

Mr Griffey said the association was fighting for the renewal of the contract of Housing Department senior civil engineer, Anthony Pitt-Jones.

Having worked for the Government for 18 years, Mr Pitt-Jones was told late last year that his contract, due to expire in early September, would not be renewed.

A Briton, Mr Pitt-Jones has obtained British Dependent Territory Citizen (BDTC) status and has asked to transfer to local terms of employment to stay in his job.

But the request has been turned down, and he is now left with an uncertain future.

''I applied for the BDTC status because I and my family look on Hongkong as our home,'' Mr Pitt-Jones said yesterday.

''The problem with me in the future is finding a job. I try to look locally and overseas but I haven't got any offers yet.

''I have been with the Government for all my life, but this is not necessarily a help in finding work outside, especially so in Britain and Canada.

''I am preparing for the worst, although I still hope I can stay and work in Hongkong,'' he said.

Mr Griffey said the association had wanted to wait for the response of the Legislative Council Public Service Panel before deciding on further action, but the administration had failed to provide information to members for more than two months.

He criticised the Government for dragging its feet on the issue.

He maintained that the association hoped the matter could be settled out of court, because it would be a very expensive case for the Government.

The association estimates that the Government would have to pay at least $100 million in compensation for wrongly dismissed officers if it lost the case.