Personal liability – an uncomfortable feeling

Without exception, all Hong Kong governments (both pre and post 1997) have tried to maintain an economic environment encouraging, supporting and nuturing corporate business: because, without it, Hong Kong would be a city of no great consequence.

Unfortunately, corporate influence in Hong Kong is now so great many people wonder who wields more power: the government or big business. Some cynics (why are you looking at me?) even suspect many government decisions are influenced by hidden corporate forces, and argue many laws are biased towards big business, and against the employee.

To be fair though, as far as I know, the majority of businesses in Hong Kong are professional, well-managed and responsible. However, some aren’t.

Some companies, it seems, flout labour laws with impunity: wages and other benefits aren’t paid, or are paid late, and subsequent Labour Tribunal rulings are ignored. Until now, the government has done little to address this scandal.

So, it comes as a pleasant surprise to learn the government is now proposing to make wilful non-compliance with a Labour Tribunal ruling a criminal offence, and to hold the company directors criminally liable (I hope penalties will include disqualification and a large fine and jail time). At this moment, I imagine some company directors are feeling a tad uncomfortable.

But, let’s not get carried away – there’s a long way to go before this proposal becomes law. If the cynics are right, this proposal may not even make it into the statute books.

Watch this space …


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