An adviser to Hong Kong’s leader who said mandatory paternity leave was a mistake has been criticised by his colleagues for openly opposing a government plan.
Executive Councillor Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who represents the city’s catering sector, opposed a proposal to increase statutory paternity leave in the city from three to five days and said it should be left to an employer’s discretion.
But his fellow Exco member Wong Kwok-kin, from the Federation of Trade Unions, said Cheung should put the general interests of the city ahead of his own sector.
“Exco has endorsed the proposal but [Cheung] has voiced opposition to it,” Wong said on Friday, adding it had generated a perception Cheung was politically unethical.
Wong also doubted the effect on the business sector of extending the current paternity leave, saying no one would have a child just to enjoy an extra two days off.
Another Exco member, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee agreed members should avoid publicly criticising the government.
“If Exco members disagree, they should tell the chief executive directly,” Ip said. “Tommy’s remarks were off the top of his head, which is typical of him.”
“You think I enjoy being blamed and thought of as a harsh and heartless person? I am just representing the opposition of my sector,” Cheung said on Friday.
Cheung revealed he had voted against paternity leave when it was introduced to the Employment Ordinance in 2015, but said this time round he would vote for it, rebutting concerns he was breaching the collective responsibility principle.
Cheung had earlier said paternity leave should not even exist as demands for more would be “never-ending”, sparking outrage among labour groups and lawmakers across the political spectrum.
As a father of three and grandfather of six, Cheung stressed he was not talking about the single issue of paternity leave, but other endless demands on the business sector, such as increasing the minimum wage.
According to the government, Exco members have the right to express their personal opinions provided the principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility are observed.
If an individual member contravenes the principles, the chief executive may take appropriate action including “issuing a warning, a public reprimand, removing the member from office or taking legal action”.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, also an Exco member, said the government was probably unhappy over the open criticism but how the principle was executed was subject to the chief executive.
“We all understand the principles but how it is executed varies among different chief executives,” he said.
The Office of the Chief Executive has not responded to inquires about Cheung’s remarks.