Democratic Party district councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung has courted controversy over the use of his accountable operating expenses granted by the council. Hui gave around HK$120,000 to three assistants as bonuses whilst one of his assistants received a bonus of 20 months’ worth of salary.
Some members of his party were concerned about the practice, and proposed a motion at its central committee meeting in early June to stop Hui from running in the Legislative Council election in September. However, it did not pass, according to a political column in the Ming Pao. Hui later confirmed that his candidacy would stand.
The committee will follow up on the incident at a meeting on Thursday, as some members demanded Hui apologise to the public.
Hui proactively disclosed the spending to the media in May, explaining that he used part of the expenses last year to give a full-time assistant and two part-time assistants HK$39,000 each as bonuses. The expenses of HK$400,000 each year are payable for spending which has been made, and can be rolled over to the following year if unused.
Hui had said that he discussed the matter with his assistants before proceeding. The full-time assistant had worked for him for two years, receiving a monthly salary of HK$11,000; one part time assistant had worked for four years for HK$2,500 per month; and another one worked for five months for HK$2,000 per month.
On a D100 radio programme on Tuesday, Hui said that some party colleagues criticised him for the high ratio of bonuses given compared to the salaries. But he said that the arrangement was made as there was money left in the expenses account and the salaries were too low for the assistants.
“You have to account for those amounts over the four years of [the district council term], we are not doing this every year,” he said. “Dividing it by four years, they only received around HK$900 more for each month.”
Hui said that, as his constituency is in Central, it was difficult for him to pay high salaries with the ever increasing rent for office space, so the bonuses were his effort to reward lowly-paid assistants.
He added that the bonuses could not keep his assistants in the job, as one of them left to work for the government after receiving the bonus.
He admitted that the amounts may look “excessive” to the public and that there were grounds for criticism from his party colleagues, but he said he was not worried about attacks from the pro-Beijing camp.
“This incident did not break any laws or guidelines, although it may be debatable in terms of public perception,” he said. “It still looks less of an issue compared with Tam Yiu-chung or Ben Chan Hang-pan.”
Reflecting on the incident, Hui said his judgement may have been “a bit sloppy,” and that he should have considered giving the bonuses with respect to the assistants’ working experience with him and their respective salaries.
“I gave the bonus only with respect to their performance, I felt their performances were very good,” he said.
“But in terms of contribution, I felt the one receiving the highest ratio with respect to the salary made three times the contribution [than needed],” he added, saying that he would likely make the same decision after considering all factors.
Hui beat independent candidate Vienna Lau Wai-yan by 150 votes in the district elections last November.