Leung under fire for lifting pay freeze on himself, top team

January 19, 2015 13:35
Activists are questioning Chief Executive CY Leung's decision to grant himself and his cabinet ministers higher pay from next month. Photo: Momentum 10

Members of a local concern group staged a demonstration Sunday to denounce a decision by the Hong Kong government to resume paying higher salaries to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his cabinet ministers.

Activists from Momentum 107, a group that advocates more efficient use of public money, held a protest in Mong Kok to voice their opposition to the increased pay package for top officials from next month.

The government announced late Friday that salaries of the top brass will return to the levels that prevailed in 2009 before they took a voluntary pay cut due to tough economic conditions.

The move will result in Leung being paid about HK$371,800 per month from February, against the current salary of around HK$351,800.

Noting that Leung will be the second-highest paid leader in the world, Momentum 107 staged a rally and called on the chief executive to slash his pay by at least 30 percent, Metro Daily reported. 

Activists put up a drama show on the street, with an actor wearing a Leung face mask holding a large pay-check of HK$371,000. Opinions were sought from pedestrians as to how much the chief executive should be paid.

Some people said Leung should be fired while some said he is not worth paying anything, or that he should be paid only HK$680 or HK$10,000 or HK$50,000 per month.

Ho Man-kit, convenor of Momentum 107, pointed out that it was a global trend in 2009 to cut top government officials' salaries. Singapore lawmakers, for instance, had volunteered to trim salaries by 20 percent, and the city-state implemented a further 20 percent cut in 2012, he said.

Leaders globally had never raised their own salaries without clear reason, unlike what Leung has just done, Ho added.

Lee Myung-bak, then president of South Korea, in 2009 announced that he was donating all of the salary offered to him over his five-year tenure, and has never sought to get it back, Ho said.

According to Ho, Leung already ranks No. 2 among world leaders in terms of pay, next only to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and German chancellor Angela Merkel all draw less salaries compared to Leung, he said.

The government issued a press release regarding the pay rise at 11 pm on Friday. Legislators accused the chief executive of giving himself a de facto pay rise by stealth, going back on his previous word to freeze the wages paid to him and his cabinet members.

A month before taking office in 2012, Leung bowed to public pressure and scrapped a proposal to boost top officials' salary. At that time, Leung said "the entire political team of the next-term government will have their pay frozen" at the 2009 level.

-- Contact us at [email protected]