Civil servant demoted for speaking out against Hong Kong police online

Published (HKT): 2020.08.21 06:00

An acting immigration officer was demoted by the Immigration Department after he allegedly voiced discontent online about the excessive use of force by Hong Kong police during last year’s anti-extradition bill protests.

An investigation by Apple Daily found that the civil servant, surnamed Wong, was just three months away from completing his three-year acting period to become an immigration officer. But instead, he was recently demoted to the lower rank of immigration assistant.

Wong had already worked as an immigration assistant before he passed an internal exam to become an acting immigration officer. 

He was suspected to have expressed discontent about excessive force used by police during last year’s protests and voiced support online for an independent probe into the Hong Kong police force.

Some of his opinions were believed to be screen-captured, which led to the Immigration Department aborting his acting period and placing Wong back to the immigration assistant position.

Immigration assistant belongs to the rank and file grade of Hong Kong’s civil services with a starting salary of HK$21,780 a month while immigration officer is a more senior position with a starting salary of HK$36,655 a month. An immigration assistant can be promoted to an immigration officer through open recruitment or an internal exam.

In June, pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po launched an attack on an Immigration Department employee for questioning the legality of police law enforcement actions during last year’s protests. The newspaper published the names of the Immigration Department employee and his wife in a report and accused him of “smearing the police” and “supporting rioters.” The report said the department was taking the case seriously. 

Michael Ngan, chairman of the Union for New Civil Servants, said a number of civil servants had become targets of complaints after their online activity had been captured.  Ngan said many of them were worried that this could have an impact on their future promotions.

Ngan, who organized a civil servants’ protest against the now-withdrawn extradition law bill last year, was demoted one grade down to assistant labor officer (II) from acting assistant labor officer (I) earlier this year.

Civil servants have come under increasing scrutiny since former constitutional and mainland affairs minister Patrick Nip became the head of the Civil Service Bureau in April. He caused controversy after calling on all Hong Kong’s civil servants to understand that they served both Hong Kong and mainland China in supporting and executing policies laid down by the chief executive.

Last Friday, his bureau sent letters to other government bureau and department heads asking them to instantly sack any civil servants who had been prosecuted for unlawful assembly during their probation period, regardless of the outcome of their upcoming trials. Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the move as the government was the “employer” which had every right to do so.

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