22 issues Hong Kong’s lawmakers have to address before they vote on democracy

Where the future of Hong Kong will be decided this week.
Where the future of Hong Kong will be decided this week.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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Before Hong Kong lawmakers get down to debating a controversial election plan, the 70-person Legislative Council must first get through 22 other local issues raised by council members that range from a shortage of public toilets for women to the risks of flammable refrigerants at restaurants.

The list of queries for the government is a fascinating sample of the both serious and petty concerns facing Hong Kong, even as the city’s democratic future is being decided. The council, which began its three-day session today as throngs of protesters surrounded the government offices, is expected to vote on Thursday or Friday on the election plan.

Here are 22 questions to be debated over the next few days:

1. People are being tricked into refinancing their homes. Staff or people impersonating staff have been calling local residents and pressuring them to refinance their properties and then charging “exorbitant intermediary fees.”

2. There aren’t enough public toilets for women. “At present, it is not uncommon to see long queues of women, waiting for their turn to use the toilet,” according one lawmaker who asks that the government make good on its promise to raise the ratio of male to female toilets from 1:1 to 1:1.5.

3. Hong Kong needs an ”animal police team.” Hong Kong, where animal cruelty is a problem, should consider setting up a police team to handle these cases.

4. More research needs to be done on flammable refrigerants. An explosion at a restaurant that injured 20 people may have been caused by commonly used refrigerants in air conditioning units. 

5. There aren’t enough air traffic controllers. Aviation workers have said air traffic manpower has been “grossly inadequate” in recent years.

6. Shipping containers are polluting already terrible air. Pollution in Hong Kong has worsened over the past decades because of heavy road and port traffic. The number of days of visibility of less then 8km was 46 days in 2010, up from seven days in 1968.

7. Share prices are being manipulated. “Downward price manipulation” is becoming a problem as regulators have trouble keeping up with Chinese money flooding the stock exchange. Listed companies consolidate their shares and offer a rights issue at discounted prices, which pushes share prices lower. Major investors get a chance to buy a large numbers of shares cheaply, and profit when the price goes back up.

8. More research should be done on alcohol abuse. The city has a low alcohol consumption rate but binge drinking is on the rise.

9. A new protest villages could become another Occupy. Protesters have camped out again outside of government headquarters to pressure lawmakers to turn down the election plan.

10. Mainland Chinese are living in Hong Kong illegally. Mainland Chinese often overstay their visit permits by years.

11. Investors are losing interesting in the city’s telecom and television industries. 

12. Government bureaus are publishing their news on their blogs and not talking to reporters.

13. Migrant workers are living in Hong Kong illegally. 

14. An airline wouldn’t let passengers with osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bone” disease onboard.

15. There’s not enough subsidized childcare.

16. Almost 10% of Hong Kong’s elderly population suffers from dementia. The city is home to Asia’s fastest-aging population after Japan.

17. Protest encampments are still causing a disturbance.

18. Hong Kong should lower the age of eligibility for welfare vouchers for the elderly.

19. Hong Kong’s elderly population are being abused. A nursing home forced female residents to strip and be bathed by staff on an outdoor pavilion, in full view of neighbors.

20. Government regulations are hindering the growing popularity of physical and occupational therapists.

21. How did HK$5 billion for nonprofit education initiatives get spent last year?

22. Po T0i doesn’t have a stable supply of water or electricity. Southeast of Hong Kong Island, the Po T0i islands are home to a few hundred people.