Amid criticism and warnings about showing favouritism to election candidates, Tung Chee-hwa last night avoided contacts with Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) hopefuls, but then spoke glowingly of the powerful union. The Chief Executive took a side entrance to the annual May Day reception at the City Hall restaurant, sparing him direct contact with FTU leaders, including Tam Yiu-chung and Chan Yuen-han. The FTU's chairman, Cheng Yiu-tong, who opted not to run in the polls on May 24, led Mr Tung to the stage by a circuitous route behind the backdrop. In another departure from previous practice, the FTU's six vice-chairmen, including Mr Tam and Ms Chan, were not invited on stage to present a toast. Mr Tung left immediately after making his speech and offering a toast - a stay of less than 20 minutes. In his speech to the event, marking the FTU's 50-year anniversary and Friday's International Labour Day, Mr Tung expressed, on behalf of the SAR Government, gratitude to the FTU's 'silent' and 'tremendous contribution' to Hong Kong. His comments were received with loud applause. Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing had urged senior government officials, including Mr Tung, to avoid giving unintended publicity to candidates. But he added that Mr Tung might have to attend some social functions because they formed part of his duties. Critics claimed Mr Tung's attendance at the reception could be seen as endorsing the FTU or its candidates. Mr Cheng, however, rejected the criticism. 'It is of significance for Mr Tung to show high regard to Labour Day as the leader of the SAR Government,' he said. Mr Cheng said Mr Tung's attendance had nothing to do with the election, noting that the FTU celebration was an 'ordinary and regular social function'. Lee Cheuk-yan of the Confederation of Trade Unions and Mr Tam's rival in the New Territories West constituency said Mr Tung was conducting a 'canvassing activity' for the FTU. 'It does not matter whether he avoids contact with the FTU candidates. The question is he has shown up at the function and this is a gesture of support. I am sure he wouldn't come to the Confederation of Trade Union's functions, even if we issue an invitation tomorrow,' he said. Mr Lee questioned Mr Tung's praise of the FTU, noting the pro-Beijing union's role in the 1967 Hong Kong riots. He also asked: 'Why did the FTU not support the legislation on collective bargaining? After all it's stance is very much in accordance with that of the ruling authority's.'