【明報專訊】SHIH CHIAO-JEN, 73, lied about his age using a fake document to continue to work as a security guard. He was caught by police and prosecuted. A judge sentenced him to four months' imprisonment. He appealed against his sentence with the assistance of warm-hearted social activists and lawyers, but the judge upheld it.
The ruling on the "fake-ID guard" case is solidly based on law and evidence. In coming to it, the judge had regard to human feelings. Nevertheless, it has left many feeling helpless. The case should perhaps be used to have citizens realise it is not an option to break the law for any reason, however proper it may be. Whoever commits an offence must pay. Even Mr Shih (whose case has touched many heartstrings) is no exception. This is a message the case conveys to society: that none should defy the law.
Unless his case is appealed again, Mr Shih will complete his time next June. He will then be in no condition to continue to work as a security guard. In fact, given his health, he can hardly work again. Evidently, he and his wife, an elderly couple, should no longer persist in relying on themselves. The Social Welfare Department should concern itself with their lives. It should have its officers urge them to apply for CSSA (Comprehensive Social Security Assistance) so that they may spend their remaining years without worry.
Many elderly people have unshakable values of life. They think "only lazy people would live on CSSA". Not to be so labelled, they would find ways to support themselves rather than apply for CSSA. They would be dishwashers or cleaners and even take other objectionable jobs. Were a universal retirement protection scheme in place in the SAR, elderly people would not have to work to feed themselves, and no cases like Mr Shih's would arise. How can it be made possible for elderly people to get employment? This is a question society ought to deal with.
Take Mr Shih. He purchased a bogus identity card with a view to finding a job. He risked being jailed because he was past the age limit of security guards. But for the age limit, he would not have committed the offence. Furthermore, it is debatable whether it is a form of age discrimination to set any age limit. Therefore, the authorities should look at the possibility of abolishing the age limit of security guards. For example, security guards may be required to produce every year or every two years medical certificates showing they are fit to keep their jobs. Such a change is in keeping with the fact that human beings now tend to live long and stay healthy.
Because of advances in medicine and health care, many septuagenarians are as healthy as quinquagenarians were in the past. If they want or expect to go on working, society should make it possible for them to do so. It is fair and reasonable to abolish age limits and leave it to employers to decide whether to hire people on the basis of their health. As society is ageing and the workforce shrinking, the government has already begun to consider raising civil servants' retirement age. It should also look at the possibility of changing or abolishing age limits of other kinds of employees and making it a rule that whether one is fit to continue to work depends on one's health. This is a problem that has arisen from the "fake-ID guard" case. The government ought to deal with it.