Lam Woon-kwong: I'm no parrot for policy

Executive Council convenor says his criticism of the government's stance on tackling gay bias and retirement protection is healthy for politics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong has defended his apparent departure from the government stance on how to tackle gay bias and universal retirement protection, saying there is no need for another "human recorder" to repeat the administration's position.

Lam, formerly secretary for the civil service and director of the Chief Executive's Office, said his views on both issues did not breach the principle of collective responsibility to which executive councillors should abide.

"Non-official members of the Exco are not part of the governing team. We should offer honest advice to the administration," he told the South China Morning Post in an interview. "There is no need for us to come out to defend all government policies as it is already being done by policy secretaries," he said.

"If we were to be human recorders, it wouldn't matter to have one more or one less of this kind of person."

Former chief secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung earned the nickname "human recorder" for repeating government policy.

Lam Woon-kwong, who will step down as Equal Opportunities Commission chairman in January, criticised the government's refusal to hold a public consultation on outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"It is very backward, not just compared to the whole world. It is more backward than Asian places like Taiwan and mainland China," said Lam. "Even if I were not with the commission, I would also criticise anything unjust."

In a Legislative Council debate on the issue on November 7, constitutional minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the government would take the pulse of public opinion to decide how to tackle discrimination.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan's motion demanding a public consultation was vetoed.

Lam, who promoted an old-age pension scheme in the 1990s as an official in the colonial government, said he still supported the idea of a universal retirement scheme, although the details needed to be hammered out.

His advocacy apparently goes far beyond the government line, which says society has yet to reach a consensus on the issue. The recently revived Commission on Poverty will have a task force to study social security and retirement protection.

The old-age pension scheme proposed in the time of last colonial governor Chris Patten required employers and employees to each contribute 1.5 per cent of an individual's salary to a pool. Pensioners would receive HK$2,300 a month. But the colonial administration later shelved the scheme in the face of opposition from business and Beijing.

"I have always believed we must ensure the elderly people in Hong Kong have a decent post-retirement life and a sound retirement protection scheme," he said, adding that Leung Chun-ying's administration recognised the inadequacies of the existing Mandatory Provident Fund.