Time for government to act

Ronald Ling Pak-ki, University of Hong Kong
Ronald Ling Pak-ki, University of Hong Kong |

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Migrant workers support the striking dockers outside the Kwai Chung container terminal.

Over the past few weeks, most students were in holiday mode, looking forward to the long, Easter weekend. Maybe our government officials have been feeling the same. Where have they been? Were they enjoying the break after announcing the budget, thinking they could really relax while our society heads towards turmoil?

Mainland authorities have hinted at the central government's stance concerning our next chief executive election, although formal consultations have still to take place with the public about the detailed arrangements for universal suffrage.

Local politicians and the media have expressed their viewpoints, both for and against Beijing's proposals. But our government officials have been less-than-willing to express their views, or start the public consultation process.

Neglecting their commitment to Hong Kong's citizens, these officials simply disappeared and allowed hostility to build up.

The government has also let us down over its ignorance about striking dock workers at container ports run by Hongkong International Terminals. It is the responsibility of the government to protect labour rights, as well as to maintain Hong Kong's reputation as a regional logistics hub. There is no absolute right or wrong side in the dispute.

While the right to collective bargaining has not been enacted in Hong Kong, there is no formal procedure governing the negotiation process. So the government would be the most suitable "middleman" to arrange negotiations between the workers and contractors. However, only a few officers from the Labour Department have visited the strike site, while workers' unions said officials were slow to act.

It was only a week after the start of the strike that Cheung Kin-chung, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, announced that the government would propose a meeting for negotiations to take place. Many Hongkongers have been deeply disappointed that the government seems to be acting like a coward in every dilemma.

With rising public expectations, the government should demonstrate its passion for creating a better society for all by taking a pragmatic approach to difficulties.

A government that deserves the public's support is one that does not hesitate to defend its people. Government, do you have the courage to fight for your citizens?