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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
HK passes civil servant pay cut
Civil servants march holding protest banners
Civil servants say the law threatens their future
Hong Kong legislators have passed a contentious government bill to cut civil servants' pay.


We must join hands to weather the current difficulties brought about by the economic restructuring

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa
The vote to slash salaries by up to 4.42% was passed by 32 votes to 26 after a six-hour debate and overnight recess.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has said the cuts were necessary to help reduce the government's increasing budget deficit.

Civil servants insist they are not opposed to the cuts, but to the other provisions of the law which will allow the administration to make other changes in future without consultation.

About 30,000 people protested against the law at the weekend in one of the territory's largest labour protests of recent years.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa
Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa wants to cut the government deficit
After the law was passed, Mr Tung tried to ease any fears among the 180,000-strong civil service.

"It will not be used as a precedent to cut pensions of civil servants," he said.

"We must join hands to weather the current difficulties brought about by the economic restructuring," added Mr Tung, who began his second five-year term in charge of Hong Kong last week.

Little sympathy

Correspondents say there is little sympathy for the civil service among Hong Kong's private-sector workers who have had to face job losses and pay cuts with two recessions in the past four years.


Why not tax the rich more?

Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan
But pro-labour lawmakers attacked the plan during the debate in the Legislative Council.

Lee Cheuk-yan asked: "Is the deficit caused only by civil servants, should it be shouldered only by civil servants, why not raise taxes?

"Why not tax the rich more?"

Martin Lee of the Democratic Party denounced the measure as an "evil law".

The pay cuts will come into effect on 1 October, and save the government around $400m a year.

But Cheung Kwok-biu of the Hong Kong Civil Servants' General Union said a lawsuit was being planned against the measures.

The protests are a sign of the growing animosity between the supposedly politically neutral civil service and the administration.

See also:

07 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
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