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Lawmakers have questioned the motives of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's wife, Regina Tong Ching-yee, after she founded a non-profit group to tackle food waste - with some critics asking whether she was leveraging her husband's influence.
But the Chief Executive's Office says Tong will quit her post as a director and switch to an honorary role once operations get under way.
According to Companies Registry records, Tong founded a company called Food for Good this month to redistribute leftovers from hotels, restaurants and bakeries to those in need. It will also promote reduction and recycling of food waste.
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok described the incident as very unusual.
"[Tong] is a distinctive political figure in the administration. She should distance herself from pushing any public policy. It will give the public a clouded perception, as her company needs to apply for funding from both the government and the private sector," he said. "The public will be suspicious of her potential motives as she has close ties to well-heeled enterprises … It will also undermine the government's credibility when it pushes food waste policies."
Chan submitted a letter of enquiry to the Chief Executive's Office, demanding an explanation over Tong's position and asking whether there was a conflict of interest.
In response to a media enquiry, the office confirmed Tong was one of the advocates behind Food for Good, but said she would switch to an honorary role.
"She will absolutely not participate in any administrative work in the plan" and won't gain financially from it, the office said in a statement.
Non-governmental groups welcomed the initiative - but wanted more details.
"One should not dread facing the media if they are doing good. NGOs should not keep secrets," said Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of Friends of the Earth (HK), which helps 23 food banks find donors. "[Leung's] wife would have an edge in securing funding, given her good networking," Lau said.
"It would be great if she could allocate funding to small groups working at the district level. Sometimes it is hard for them to secure donors."
Tsang Oi-fun, of St James' Settlement's People's Food Bank, said Food for Good could devote more attention to long-term assistance for those who suffer under the widening wealth gap.
It was understood that Tong had talked to green groups, and they welcomed the idea of extra funding that came alongside government subsidies.