The public should not expect Leung Chun-ying to implement all of his election pledges within his five-year term, a key adviser to the chief executive says.
Instead, according to Executive Council member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, Leung could be said to have lived up to his promises by starting to research the changes.
Law made the remarks in the midst of a row over Leung's failure to announce legal changes to stop bosses dipping into employees' retirement savings. Her comments were immediately condemned as "reckless" and "illogical" by lawmakers.
"Leung has already realised his election manifesto by starting up research on the relevant policies … the fact that the work has started shows the government is not failing to deliver on its promises," the former chief graft-buster and Education Bureau boss told Cable TV.
She was referring to criticism that Leung's policy address last week failed to include moves to change the Mandatory Provident Fund's offsetting mechanism.
The mechanism allows firms to use their contributions to the compulsory retirement scheme to fund severance pay and long-service payments for departing employees. Before the 2012 election Leung promised to "adopt measures to progressively reduce the proportion of accrued benefits" that can be used for offsetting. Questioned last week, Leung said he wanted to "forge a consensus" between bosses and workers before acting.
Law, who helped draw up Leung's manifesto, said the government had already started an internal study on the matter, adding that the public could hardly expect Leung to fulfil every promise during his term. "Take the example of the cultural bureau … we are unsure if the government can complete its restructuring [as suggested by the manifesto] within these five years," she said.
Legislators across the political spectrum berated Law.
"Leung clearly stated in his manifesto that he would reduce the proportion of accrued benefits that could be used by the employer to offset long-service or severance payments. Therefore, of course, he has to actually realise it before he can claim the credit," said Wong Kwok-kin, of the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions. "Law's comments are reckless."
The Labour Party's Peter Cheung Kwok-che also questioned Law's logic. "Would people say they have finished their homework if they have in fact only written a word of it?" Cheung said. "I guess even school pupils would have a different view to Law's."