The lawmaker for Hong Kong’s catering functional constituency has been criticised after stating that the campaign for longer paternity leave was part of a “never-ending list of demands.”
Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, chairman of the conservative Liberal Party, told TVB’s News Magazine on Saturday that he did not believe there should be paternity leave at all.
“Do you think [workers] will stop at seven days? Next, they’ll ask for 14 days, then they’ll ask for one month, one year. Then they’ll say the employers are unscrupulous,” Cheung said.
“It’s a never-ending list of demands, they won’t stop at any one point,” he added.
Hong Kong law stipulates that male employees are entitled to three days of paternity leave, with 80 per cent of their normal daily salary. Cheung said he had opposed that arrangement when it first came out.
In her 2017 policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed extending paid paternity leave from three to five days. The bill is expected to be debated at the Legislative Council later this year.
Cheung said his generation did not enjoy such benefits: “We didn’t have paternity leave in the old days, and our wives didn’t have maternity leave. So what?”
‘Barbaric form of capitalism’
Cheung’s comments were decried by both pro-Beijing and pro-democracy labour unions. Chairman of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) Stanley Ng Chau-pei said that Cheung should not draw comparisons with the past.
“In the past, there were sweatshops, indentured servitude and child labour. In the past, Cheung also practiced this barbaric form of capitalism!” Ng wrote on Facebook.
The pro-democracy Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) criticised Cheung for his “harsh comments.”
“Cheung characterises all forms of labour protection as ‘demands,’ and is blind to the exploitation of workers and the backwardness of Hong Kong’s labour laws,” the CTU said in a statement. “Cheung’s harsh comments will only hurt employers who treat workers well, and damage the reputation of Hong Kong employers.”
The CTU had earlier said that it would argue for a seven-day paternity leave when Lam’s proposal reaches the Legislative Council. It also noted in its statement that Singapore mandates two weeks of paternity leave, while Iceland grants three to six months.
Cheung was elected to the catering functional constituency seat with 2,438 to 647 votes in 2016. He has held the seat uninterrupted since its creation in 2000.