22 October 2016
Andrew Fung (R), the top media official of CY Leung (L), has seen a huge bump in his salary since he took office in December 2013. Photos: HKEJ
Andrew Fung (R), the top media official of CY Leung (L), has seen a huge bump in his salary since he took office in December 2013. Photos: HKEJ

How much should we pay our ‘White House’ spokesman?

It will come as a surprise to many if they learn how much our government is paying an official who has the admittedly unenviable task of projecting our chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, in good light.

According to a Legco filing Wednesday, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, the Information Coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive, stands to make as much as HK$3.83 million this year.

That amounts to more than HK$10,000 per day for the official who once described his job as being akin to that of the White House press secretary.

Well, Fung can now be happy as he is, in fact, making more than anyone in the White House, including President Barack Obama.

In case you don’t know, the US president gets an annual salary of US$400,000 (HK$3.12 million).

It’s sweet revenge for Fung, given that he has been mocked endlessly by the local media as he defended Leung against all sorts of allegations in the past two years.

Call it hardship reimbursement!

The salary details came to light this week after lawmakers sought the expenditure breakdown on the Chief Executive Office for the coming financial year.

From the information made available, we know that out of the HK$4.1 million additional expense, nearly one-third is due to the end-of-contract gratuity for Fung and special assistant Yau Ping-fei.

Fung’s total salary, including end-of-contract gratuity, and allowances is almost double the HK$2 million that the official received when he first took up the position of information coordinator in December 2013.

For the outgoing fiscal year (2015-16), Fung’s salary was HK$2.96 million, up from HK$2.74 million in the previous year.

Of course, we should acknowledge that he has taken up a very difficult task, given the low approval ratings of Leung since the chief executive took office almost four years ago.

Apart from the routine work of coordinating Leung’s schedule and public engagements and crafting the right messages for media consumption, Fung also offered personalized public relations services.

After quitting the Democratic Party and joining Leung’s government, Fung has defended his boss by penning media columns using his real name.

Meanwhile, there were also rumors that the official was using a pen name to write articles in which he criticized various political parties.

At the height of the Occupy Central movement in 2014, Fung earned the ridicule of netizens as he uploaded a TV drama photo that he mistook to be that of a cop beaten up by demonstrators.

His extra efforts, which sometimes helped shift negative focus onto Fung himself and away from Leung, perhaps explain why Fung is making more than Edward Yau Tang-wah, director of the Chief Executive’s Office.

Yau will make HK$3.6 million in the coming year.

Fung’s annual take-home pay will put him at par with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and only slightly below Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who will make HK$3.97 million.

The media official’s compensation also compares favorably with that of his boss Leung, who has total emoluments of HK$5.36 million — annual salary of HK$4.46 million plus HK$897,000 non-accountable entertainment allowance.

The “White House” spokesperson will also make more money than Liu Tianni, chairman of Wonderful Sky Financial Group, the only listed public relations firm in Hong Kong.

Liu made HK$3.68 million last year.

Now, we’ll leave it to you to determine whether Fung, indeed, deserves all that he gets.

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EJ Insight writer

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