RTHK's English-language current affairs programme that takes "The Pulse" of Hong Kong ... and the world around it.
Hello and welcome to The Pulse. As Tim Wong, a doctor who works in the Accident and Emergency services, told us last week, staff in the public hospital sector have been working at breaking point for a long time. He argued that the public healthcare system is facing a systematic crisis. Front-line medical staff often point to the speed at which Hong Kong’s population is growing without a corresponding increase in public health manpower. They want to see a review of population policy, particularly the one-way permit scheme that allows 150 people from the mainland to settle in Hong Kong every day. With us are Sze Lai-shan, Community Organiser for the Society for Community Organization and former Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong.
The current ratio of doctors to patients in Hong Kong’s public health service is 1.9 to 1,000. The ratio of nurses to patients is 7.1 to 1,000. The average length of time a doctor can spend with each patient is down to just a few minutes. Public hospitals are overcrowded, and medical staff are overworked. Last year and this year, the government allocated additional “one-off” HK$500 million funds to tackle the winter flu surge. But front-line staff say it’s not necessarily helping on the ground, and the problems they face extend well beyond the flu season.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has, several times, lamented that many Hong Kong people still do not understand the “new constitutional order” or do not accept the way it operates under One Country, Two Systems. Last month, China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang warned the country’s judges not to fall into the “trap” of Western ideologies such as constitutional democracy and separation of powers, and encouraged them to denounce the idea of an independent judiciary. A recent report by the World Justice Project ranks the fairness of the PRC’s judicial system 75th out of 113 countries. Hong Kong was in 16th place. But suggested amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws may have the effect of sending the SAR down in the rankings. With us to discussion that issue is Philip Dykes, Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association.
The Law Reform Commission says, in its recent consultation paper on archives law, that well-managed archives and records are central to good governance.
Anyone who has tried to get access to many of those records, particularly on politically contentious subjects, will have found that the Hong Kong government appears to take another view. Researchers, scholars, activists, journalists, not forgetting ordinary members of the public will know how difficult it can be to access information from Hong Kong government records. Government records and archives management is the responsibility of the Government Records Service. However, there is no archive law and no penalties for malpractice in disposing of government documents. Between 2013 to 2016, a total of more than 360 million records were approved for destruction. A consultation on a potential archives law is underway, ending on March 5th, but not everyone’s convinced the government wants a law with teeth.