Carrie Lam

Long hours and work at weekends add to pressure on officials

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:33pm


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Top officials are having to work longer hours, even over the weekend and during holidays, to explain and defend government policies.

A minister starts a typical day with what is jokingly called the 'morning prayer' at about 8.30am, a 30-minute meeting with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, at which they run through news items, scandals and issues they need to follow up.

In Michael Suen Ming-yeung's case, the afternoons are usually filled with meetings or public functions. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, a self-described workaholic, works 15 hours a day from 7am to 10pm.

His weekends are always occupied, attending public functions such as ceremonies held by NGOs.

Cheung has become even more busy over the past few months. With the new minimum wage law, his office has been swamped with complaints, appeals, inquiries and protests from labour groups, employers and lawmakers.

The 59-year-old minister has a medical check-up every year and the latest check-up last month found him to be in 'normal' condition, his press secretary said.

'The minister works out for at least 30 minutes before going to work each day and he will go hiking to keep fit if he has no duties on Sunday,' she added.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, regarded as a 'troubleshooter', also works long hours. Colleagues will sometimes receive midnight e-mails from Lam, who habitually spends weekend afternoons reading letters from citizens. Unlike some ministers, who rely on deputies, Lam is one of the few who attends almost all meetings of the Legislative Council's panel that discuss policies under her bureau.

Lam is also a frequent traveller. Since May last year she has had nine business trips, including to New Zealand and Norway. She has assured the public she has a check-up every year and that she is in good health.