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Typhoon Mangkhut

No holiday for Hong Kong after typhoon was the right decision, despite pain of getting to work

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 5:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 5:03pm

With fallen trees blocking major roads, Hongkongers had to travel across “jungles” on Monday to avoid being criticised by their bosses for not turning up to work after Typhoon Mangkhut had torn through the city. Thousands were stuck at MTR stations, especially on the East Rail line, as services were disrupted by damaged power lines or blocked tracks.

Harried workers and commuters blamed the government for not declaring an official holiday in Hong Kong. It might seem ridiculous to employees but, from the government’s perspective, it was the responsible decision, even if the execution was faulty.

There is no legal mechanism that allows the government to declare an official day off in the aftermath of a natural disaster. If this lack of a legal basis had been ignored, it would have harmed the rule of law in the city. The government should lead by example and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor was right not to declare a holiday – she must maintain her government’s credibility with the public over the rule of law.

How much does a typhoon cost?

And, what about businesses and industries that would lose revenue as a result of a sudden public holiday? Some companies would blame the government or could even take legal action seeking compensation for financial loss.

However, I do agree with those saying that the government should have announced a day off for non-essential public officials, as that may have nudged businesses to follow suit, instead of only asking that bosses show more understanding towards staff.

Chief Executive Lam has explained the reasons for her decision, but hopefully the government can learn from this experience.

Vincent Lau, Tseung Kwan O