What price the lives of workers on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge?

We have asked how much the bridge is worth. Now it’s time to ask how much the lives of its construction workers are worth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 1:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

How many dead construction workers is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge being built on?

It’s seven and counting since the controversial project started building in 2011.

While lawmakers and the public fret over the extra HK$5.4 billion for the bridge which is suffering from a massive cost overrun, the court has fined three companies a combined HK$89,000 for the death of one victim.

Chan Hon-fu, 58, was operating an excavator late at night on board a barge, shovelling soil into dump trucks for sea reclamation when the accident happened. It took firemen 17 hours to free his body.

Special magistrate Andrew Mok Tsz-chung said the offences were serious, enough apparently to fine main contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company, the excavator’s owner, Great Progress Construction, and barge owner Hong Kong Hang Tong a whopping HK$89,000.

Mok observed that none of the defendants showed the slightest remorse. Why should they when the court has just given them a slap on the wrist? It’s just a small cost of running the business.The Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims said installing proper safety gear and procedures for workers would have cost a lot more than the fines.

Throw a few of the big bosses in jail and/or fine them millions of dollars, they may then fake some remorse and improve safety. As it is, we impose higher fines on television stations for not showing programmes they were supposed to.

Officials are worried about not getting extra funding. Now they do after ending a filibuster in the legislature. Not once have they come out and said: “Enough is enough – too many dead.”

A South Asian hawker got a year in jail for accidentally killing an anti-hawker officer in Central. He turned himself in, showed sincere remorse and pleaded guilty.

Granted, one year is considered a lenient sentence, which the man wholly deserved.

He could not have foreseen the outcome of his actions, which resulted in a death.

But anyone could have foreseen the danger of lax safety standards. Should not the construction bosses be the guiltier parties?

We have asked how much the bridge is worth. It’s time to ask how much the lives of its construction workers are worth.