Paul Tang lined up as next labour chief

Director of Social Welfare Paul Tang Kwok-wai is set to succeed Matthew Cheung Kin-chung as permanent secretary for economic development and labour next month - seen as a hot seat with two difficult issues to tackle.

Mr Tang, 50, has held a variety of posts since joining the civil service but has had no direct experience of labour matters.

His previous post was deputy secretary for the environment, transport and works.

Kwong Chi-kin, a legislator with the Federation of Trade Unions, said the possible enactment of a law for a minimum wage and the inclusion of commissions in the calculation of holiday pay were two controversial issues the next permanent secretary would have to tackle.

'Those issues are a hot potato for a labour chief as it involves different parties' interest,' Mr Kwong said, adding that the new person at the helm would need strong negotiation powers and a good relationship with both employers and employees.

The permanent secretary post is directorate grade 8, which means Mr Tang will get promotion from grade 6. He took over as social welfare director in 2003.


Mr Cheung, 57, joined the government in 1972 as an information officer.

A government source said he had been invited last year to stay one more year but would have to leave the administration in March due to his contract expiring.

Mr Cheung has a good and close relationship with representatives of labour unions.

Mr Kwong said the members of the Labour Advisory Board had written a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen recently urging the government to prolong Mr Cheung's contract.


However, he said they were notified that it was government policy not to extend an official's contract after meeting retirement age unless there was a justification for it.

Mr Cheung may see public service again as a politically appointed official.


Meanwhile, there has been speculation that Pamela Tan Kam Mi-wah, who is the director of the Home Affairs Department, will take over as director of the Social Welfare Department.