A probationary Customs and Excise Department officer who posted statements critical of the Department’s internal practices on social media was terminated from employment on Tuesday.
The officer, surnamed Lam, joined an “anti-smuggling” protest in Shatin in February. In March, he was identified by netizens opposed to the protest, some of whom said they would file official complaints against him.
In the same month, Lam posted on Facebook that “at the department I am working in, there is an unwritten rule” that disabled, young and elderly people, mothers carrying babies and pregnant women “will not be bothered.”
He questioned whether the rule could be abused by parallel traders using such identities as cover. According to Apple Daily, Lam had once found a large amount of illicit cigarettes concealed under a baby trolley but his colleagues told him “not to create a fuss.”
Lam was asked to write a report about his participation in the protests and was transferred from his border control post at Shenzhen Bay Port to Man Kam To border control.
Lam also said that later in March, he was questioned by disciplinary forces. The Customs Department asked him about everything he had published on social media, including one post on his participation in last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests and another in which he urged his friends to take part in the anti-smuggling protests.
In a letter from Customs in October, Lam was informed that he was suspended. The letter noted that his social media post may “reflect a problem in your character and discretion.” It also stated that his “integrity is being questioned.”
Lam’s employment was subsequently terminated on Tuesday, December 15. Since he was still on probation, no reason was given for his termination. Lam is currently considering lodging a judicial review.
Customs Officers Union chairman Chan Ming told Apple Daily that he had received a request from Lam for help and that they lodged a claim on his behalf—however, this was rejected.
When asked whether the union will continue to assist Lam, Chan replied that “he’s already been fired.” Chan added that it was the first time someone in the Department had been fired for comments posted online.
In a Facebook post published on Tuesday, Lam said: “I can let go of my job, but I can never let go of justice! Throughout history, change came from revolution, and revolution came from acts of resistance! Hong Kong must uphold its bottom line and freedom of speech online must not be controlled! This is Hong Kong, not China!”
Lam’s termination letter was uploaded onto a Hong Kong Police Force fan page, with a caption praising the government’s actions and stating that Lam had got what he deserved.
The Customs and Excise Department says that it will not comment on individual cases.