Complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman rose in 2003 for the fifth year in a row - a reflection, in part, of the general atmosphere of dissatisfaction in Hong Kong, according to Ombudsman Alice Tai Yuen-ying. The ombudsman's office received 4,600 complaints last year, an increase of about 300 from the previous year. The departments receiving the most complaints were those dealing with social issues, such as the Housing Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. 'This reflects a greater public demand for better quality of public services,' Ms Tai said. 'People are now more aware of their rights and vigilant to safeguard their interests. They are not shy to use many different channels to redress perceived wrongs and grievances.' She added: 'Some complaints were individual cases, where the departments did not handle the cases very well. Some others reflect a more general air of grievance in the community. 'The citizens complain to us right after the event, and sometimes when we follow up on the complaints they just drop the matter. From my point of view, many public organisations treat citizen complaints quite seriously.' She was speaking at the presentation of this year's Ombudsman Awards - given to government departments and public organisations that make exemplary efforts to investigate complaints. This year, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department won the top award for the second time in three years. Prizes also went to the Housing Department and Social Welfare Department. Twenty-one civil servants were also honoured. For Peter Dy Wai-fung, assistant manager of the Urban Renewal Authority and one of the recipients of the award, dedication to public service sometimes has its dangers. He was making the rounds at a construction site when an irate contractor threatened to hit him. The contractor picked up a shovel and rushed at him, but was restrained by others present. Mr Dy said: 'It made a big impression on me. Some of the contractors may think that we are quite meddlesome, but I just hope that through our involvement we can help people with a real need.'