Major medical associations in Hong Kong will support a sit-in protest organised by the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association on Wednesday afternoon demanding an extra pay increase. Famous doctors such as Yuen Kwok-yung have also voiced support for the doctors.

The protest was sparked by the decision of the Hospital Authority (HA) to exclude the doctors from the Civil Service Pay Level Survey, under which they should enjoy a 3 percent pay raise, along with other civil servants. The association claimed that some 2,000 doctors were affected.

The protest will be held in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where public hospital doctors also protested over salary demands in 2007. Several hundred may join the sit-in.

The Hong Kong Medical Association, the Hong Kong Doctors Union, the Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong and Médecins Inspirés will join the protest.

Yuen Kwok-yung (circled) and the doctors sit-in protest in 2007
Yuen Kwok-yung (circled) and the doctors’ sit-in protest in 2007. File Photo: Stand News.

New mechanism to be discussed

The HA will meet on Thursday to discuss a new salary adjustment mechanism to compare salaries of doctors with civil servants as a reference, so that the HA can ask for a raise if doctors receive lower pay, Ming Pao reported. Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man also said on Monday that he supports the HA in doing this.

But Pierre Chan Pui-yin, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, said it would take a lot of time to develop such a mechanism.

He said the HA should first state clearly if the salaries for public hospital doctors would still be linked to the civil servant scale, or they would be frozen to await a decision on any new mechanism: “let’s see if the staff will accept it.”

Chan added that doctors were angry that the HA had excluded them from the survey without them knowing. This was breaking their trust, and the HA and the government should explain.

Pierre Chan Pui-yin
Pierre Chan Pui-yin.

Support from famous doctors

Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) who was hailed as a hero during the SARS pandemic, told Apple Daily that the government was responsible for the dispute: “the government frequently wants a fight, this is an unnecessary conflict.”

He said that the private sector paid doctors two to three times as much as the HA and they could work fewer hours if they moved, but they would rather stay to take care of patients: “did nurses and doctors contribute less than civil servants?” He is still considering whether to join the protest.

Lo Chung-mau, HKU chair professor in hepatobiliary surgery, also told the newspaper that he supports the doctors getting a pay rise according to the survey; it would lower their morale if they were not paid the same as civil servants at the same rank. But he will not join the protest as he has just undergone surgery.

Chief Executive of the HA Leung Pak-yin is expected to address the protesters on Wednesday, but there has been no arrangement for HA chairman John Leong Chi-yan or officials from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.