Doctors' hero seeks to swap radical image for independence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am

Some of his peers describe him as unsociable and radical, but the newly elected legislator for the medical sector, Leung Ka-lau, says people who say such things just don't know him well enough.

The Prince of Wales Hospital surgeon and former Public Doctors' Association president defeated three other candidates to represent more than 10,000 doctors and dentists in the legislature.

He is adamant he will remain independent, saying: 'Joining any political party or alliance will have a strong labelling effect, which is not what my voters want.'

Dr Leung, who graduated from Chinese University in 1986 and has been a public doctor since, is best known for his victory in a 2006 lawsuit brought against the Hospital Authority over doctors' long working hours. He is regarded as a hero by frontline doctors who benefited from working-hours reform.

But he does not want people to think of him as a radical fighter.

'I do nothing without thorough consideration,' he said. 'Surgeons have a common characteristic - they always think carefully and are decisive. Going ahead with an operation or not, or how to perform surgery, can mean life and death to patients.'

His top agenda in the Legislative Council is to improve the working environment for both public and private practitioners, and to monitor health-care-financing reform.

'Any mandatory medical saving and insurance scheme does not fit the culture of free choice in Hong Kong,' Dr Leung said. 'Making medical spending tax-deductible is a better option; it can encourage more patients to use private services.'

On political reform, Dr Leung finds the schedule for direct election of the chief executive in 2017 'acceptable' but thinks earlier implementation would be better.

He will consult the profession before forming a view on direct election of the legislature and the fate of the functional constituencies.

He rejects claims he is not good at socialising and presenting views.

'In fact, people who say I cannot express myself well and speak too slowly cannot run as fast as I can in ball games,' he said. 'Sometimes I choose to remain silent in front of others because many people want to talk.'

Dr Leung is a fan of sport, including table tennis, badminton and golf, to name a few. His parents, both teachers from the mainland, have six sons, three of them doctors.

'My parents ran an indoor table tennis court when I was small, so I played every day. Through those games, I learned how to work in a team. I will use the same principle in the Legco and will work closely with other members.'