Public holiday for Confucius a step closer

Amy Nip

Hongkongers may be a step closer to getting a public holiday for Confucius' birthday.

Lawmaker Chan Kam-lam will move a Legislative Council motion next Wednesday demanding the government make the day a holiday, and yesterday the Confucian Academy said other religious leaders would back the proposal.

But it does not mean Hongkongers would have an additional day off each year. Instead, the academy suggests replacing the public holiday on Easter Monday - the last day of the Easter holiday - with Confucius' birthday on August 27.

Confucius, a philosopher and teacher, was born more than 400 years before Christ. 'Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself' is one of his most quoted teachings.

'There is a holiday for Qu Yuan [a third-century scholar and patriotic poet]. Why shouldn't there be one for Confucius?' Tong Yan-kai, president of the academy, said, referring to the Tuen Ng Festival, a day when people remember the death of Qu Yuan.

The academy has been lobbying for a public holiday in honour of Confucius' birthday since 1997. It says Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and Muslim leaders in the city support making Confucius' birthday a holiday called Teachers' Day.

Tong said Protestants had formerly opposed the plan, but were now ready to support it.

Scrapping the Easter Monday holiday and adding a new holiday on August 27 would be the best option, he said. If there were objections to this proposal, the government could retain the Easter Monday holiday but rename it in honour of Confucius' birthday.

Despite the academy's passion for Confucius, it seems the government is not enthusiastic about making his birthday a new holiday.

There are 17 general holidays a year, of which 12 are statutory holidays. Any amendment would affect the public and their consent should be sought, a spokeswoman said. No information was available that showed the public had reached a consensus that Confucius' birthday should be made a holiday, she said. 'It's not the best time at this stage to consider their recommendation.'

Shortening the Easter holiday would cause inconvenience for the business sector, Federation of Hong Kong Industries deputy chairman Stanley Lau Chin-ho said. Europeans and Americans all enjoyed Easter holidays and to stay connected with the international market, it would be best if there were the same holidays in Hong Kong, he said.

It would be inefficient if businessmen worked when their clients were on holiday. Easter was also something that made Hong Kong special in the eyes of mainland tourists, Lau said. Many tourists were attracted by Easter sales in Hong Kong, he said.

Employees could be disappointed if their long weekend holiday at Easter was cut short, he said.

Peter Koon Ho-ming, secretary general of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, said that, since Easter falls on a Sunday and religious celebrations take place on that day, scrapping the Easter Monday holiday would not greatly affect believers.

Take a break

New general holidays since 1997:

SAR establishment day: July 1

National Day: October 1

Labour Day: May 1

Buddha's Birthday: the eighth day of the fourth lunar month

General holidays deleted since 1998:

Queen's Birthday: a Saturday in June, plus the following Monday

Liberation Day: the last Monday in August and the Saturday preceding it

Sino-Japanese War Victory Day: August 18

The day following National Day: October 2