Protests over the controversial extradition bill are in its eighth week and today, the first general strike since Hong Kong’s reunification with mainland China is taking place.
FactWire has discovered that since the demonstrations began on June 9, several principal officials have taken leave with durations ranging from seven to 17 days.
People are taking industrial action to force a government response to five major demands, including the withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill and to set up an independent inquiry commission to look into police brutality.
The city’s leader Carrie Lam in the morning held a press conference to once again accuse protesters of the recent violence but did not propose any constructive solutions.
Officials accompanying the chief executive during the press conference included two secretaries of departments and six heads of bureaus and departments, less than the number that attended the press conference following the Yuen Long attack on July 22.
Secretary for Development Michael Wong and Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung are on vacation, according to the government gazette.
FactWire also checked the leave records for principal officials during this period.
Up to four principal officials have gone or are about to take leave of up to 17 days since 1.03 million people took to the streets on June 9.
Officials such as Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip took leave from July 16 to 22 and Secretary for Development Michael Wong is on a 17-day vacation ending August 12.
Sophia Chan, the Secretary for Food and Health will take 10 days of leave from August 10 and Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung is on a 14-day vacation ending August 17.
Three principal officials will be on vacation at the same time from August 10 to 12.
In terms of deputy secretaries and permanent secretaries, Permanent Secretary for the Civil Service Chow Tat-ming and Permanent Secretary for Food and Health Elizabeth Tse have both been on leave from July 18.
Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council Anthony Neoh is also not in Hong Kong as the conflict between police and civilians heats up.
The council’s response to FactWire said Neoh traveled to the UK on July 17 for personal reasons and had asked universities and experts to assist in the council’s studies. He came back to Hong Kong on August 3 and has left the city for official business and will return in mid-August.
FactWire sent inquiries to the offices of the chief executive, the three secretaries of departments and 13 policy bureaus inquiring about leave arrangements from June.
Only the office for the chief secretary replied, saying that the chief secretary had not taken leave during the period.
The offices for the chief executive, and finance and justice ministers did not reply by the deadline for this story.
As for the 13 policy bureaus, a government spokesman replied that relevant officials are taking holidays in accordance with the requirements.
Regarding permanent secretaries, the spokesman said there is an established mechanism to deal with leave arrangements for civil servants.
Officials that did not attend today’s press conference included justice secretary Teresa Cheng, and only five secretaries of 13 policy bureaus attended the press conference.
The Chief Executive office said today’s press conference was in response to the city-wide strike and the city’s economic risks, so those who attended the press conference are in charge of public services and the economy.