New bid to block expats

LOCAL civil servants are to propose a new plan to freeze the Government's decision to allow expatriate staff to switch to local terms, they said yesterday.

They have also decided to drop their original plan to impose tough language and residency requirements on expatriate staff wanting to transfer.

The local civil servant unions had intended to draft legislation in the form of a private member's bill stipulating that expatriate civil servants must have lived in Hong Kong for 20 years, or be proficient in written and spoken Chinese.

But lack of support from legislators, concerned that such stringent requirements were incompatible with the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights, have forced the civil servants to back down.

Instead, 15 local staff associations decided last night to put forward a new plan aimed at preventing the Government implementing its new localisation policy.

Legislation will be drafted by the Local Crown Counsel Association with legislators again being asked to consider introducing it as a private member's bill.

The Association of Expatriate Civil Servants' president, Royston Griffey, said he was surprised to learn about plans to try to freeze the Government's decision.

''They should accept the fact that the Government's policy has changed because the localisation policy, as it was, is illegal,'' he said.

''If they want to challenge the decision, they should do it in the proper way, by seeking a judicial review.'' Liberal Party legislator Lau Wah-sum supported the new move. He said the party had always been asking for the new policy to be frozen.

The chairman of the Senior Non-Expatriate Officers' Association (SNEOA), John Luk Woon-cheung, said they had raised sufficient funds to mount legal proceedings against the Government, but refused to say how much they had.

Queen's Counsel they had contacted were interested in taking up the case, he said.

Mr Luk said they would also stage a protest at Kai Tak airport next Tuesday when the Governor, Chris Patten, returned from leave.

Meanwhile, legislators have asked for a special sitting to debate the policy of allowing expatriate civil servants to switch to local terms.

Four Meeting Point legislators have written to the Acting Governor, Sir David Ford, asking him to exercise his power to call for a special sitting during the summer recess.

The deadline for some expatriate civil servants to submit their applications for local terms is September 30, but the Legislative Council does not reconvene until October 6.

The Standing Order allows for the Governor to request such a sitting if it is in the public interest.

In the letter to Sir David, the legislators said they were disappointed by the lack of positive response from the administration on their request to shelve the new policy.

A total of 42 members had earlier written to Sir David, asking him to postpone introducing the new policy.

The Meeting Point legislators have appealed to Sir David to hold the special sitting before the September deadline.

Dr Leong Che-hung said they planned to move a debate in the sitting calling for the policy to be suspended.