Pro-democracy groups marched to government headquarters and Government House on Thursday to protest a range of policies affecting the elderly and the working population.
Three separate events were held by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), the League of Social Democrats and the Democratic Party. They chose to protest on the third day of the Lunar New Year – traditionally considered to be a day where arguments and hot tempers can flare.
The CTU marched to the official residence of Chief Executive Carrie Lam to demand legislation for standardised working hours of 44 hours per week. It also asked that the government provide a “living wage” for their contract workers, meaning an hourly wage of no less than HK$54.7.
“The government said they are going with ‘industry-based working hour guidelines’, but we all know those guidelines are not legally binding,” said the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan. “They have spent more than a year on it, and until now the industry representatives still haven’t budged.”
The CTU said that it was unlikely for the capital and labour sides to reach a consensus on working hours, and that the government was deflecting responsibility on the issue.
Separately, the League of Social Democrats and People Power also marched to Government House on Thursday, asking for broad reforms in welfare and land policies.
The activists asked the government to halt the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” land reclamation plan, and to take back the Fanling golf course and other vacant parcels of land for housing development. They also opposed raising the age threshold for elderly financial support, and asked for a universal retirement protection system.
“In its upcoming financial budget, the government should spend the HK$1 trillion to implement universal retirement protection, instead of building an artificial island that may run over budget,” said LSD Chairman Avery Ng. “The people most urgently in need are the impoverished elderly, not land developers.”
Financial Secretary Paul Chan will unveil his spending plans at the Legislative Council on February 27.
During the protest, activists hung props onto the fence of the Government House showing Carrie Lam’s face on a cardboard pig.
On Thursday, the Democratic Party held a rally outside the government headquarters in Admiralty with a slew of policy suggestions.
Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the government should invest at least HK$10 billion in improving Hong Kong’s healthcare system, with another HK$30 billion for building elderly homes.
Wu also expressed support for loosening requirements for foreign doctors to practice in Hong Kong. He said the government could allow graduates from a select list of overseas medical schools to work in the city’s public hospitals without going through additional vetting.