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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong lawmakers call for statutory holiday to celebrate victory over Japan in second world war

  • Unionist Poon Siu-ping tabled non-binding motion and said holiday would give youth another chance to learn about country
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 8:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 10:51pm

Hong Kong lawmakers passed a motion urging the government to make September 3 a statutory holiday to celebrate Japan’s surrender in the second world war.

Officials were also urged to align the 12 days of statutory holidays and five extra days of general holidays so all workers would benefit.

Unionist lawmaker Poon Siu-ping tabled the non-binding motion on Wednesday.

Poon, a member of the pro-Beijing Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, said the extra day off would provide local youths with the opportunity to learn about the country’s history.

“Especially in today’s Hong Kong, separatism is brewing. Celebrating victory in the war gives young people another chance to learn about the country,” Poon said.

On September 2, 1945, Japan formally signed its surrender bringing the hostilities of the second world war to a close, and China celebrated the following day.

The surrender also marked the end of Japan’s more than three-year occupation of Hong Kong.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the surrender, Beijing made September 3 a public holiday in mainland China in 2015. The Hong Kong government also made it a one-off holiday, after obtaining Legco’s approval.

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Speaking before Wednesday’s motion was put to vote, labour minister Law Chi-kwong said workers in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan all got less paid leave than Hongkongers.

He also said the government had no plan to make September 3 a statutory holiday, or to align the number of statutory and general holidays.

Poon’s motion was passed with backing from both sides of the political divide.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin supported the motion and also called for the government to align general and statutory holidays.

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All workers in Hong Kong are entitled to 12 statutory holidays but it is up to employers to decide whether they will give staff five other general holidays, including Good Friday and Easter Monday. Generally, only white-collar workers enjoy the extra five days off.

“To the public, [a holiday] is a rare chance to rest,” Wan said.

The difference in the number of days off also gave rise to feeling among some workers that they were treated unfairly, he added.

Lawmaker Ho Kai-ming of the Pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions also made a similar suggestion at the meeting and filed an amendment urging the government make the change, which was also passed.

Lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the pro-business Liberal Party said his party would not object if an existing statutory holiday was swapped for a day to celebrate Japan’s surrender.

“For one, it will not increase the business sector’s cost,” Cheung said.

In 2011, an official document estimated one extra holiday would cost employers HK$1.8 billion a year.

“If you ask me … I think swapping the Labour Day holiday will be best,” Cheung said.

The member’s motion required a majority in both Legco’s geographical and functional constituencies to pass. The voting was by a raise of hands.

The war between China and Japan raged for eight years between July 1937 and September 1945.

The Japanese occupied Hong Kong for three years and eight months during the war.