Wednesday, December 2, 2015   

Tsang gambles on political appointees

Carrie Chan

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It could be a daring move or a half- baked potato.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has proposed that during his second term he intends to expand his ruling team to include dozens of political appointees, something his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa never attempted during his eight-year rule.

Sources say this is one of the lessons the Beijing and Tsang camps have learned from Tung's failure and because Tsang's people-based governance requires courageous and able leadership to exercise the power enshrined in the Basic Law.

Building a strong and coherent ruling team staffed with sufficient political talents is a legitimate requirement for strong governance.


However, the launch of the consultation paper was not well-orchestrated. Tsang told the traveling press corps on July 17, during his Singapore trip, that the proposal would be launched at the end of the summer vacation.

But nine days later, lawmakers and political parties were caught by surprise.

At an editors' briefing, an embarrassed Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Siu-lung said the consultation paper was announced on schedule as a special meeting of the Executive Council, chaired by Tsang, had scrutinized it Tuesday.

But the timing appears to be the result of the recent heated political climate and the new calls for universal suffrage which have been stirred up by former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and former Hong Kong No2 Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

Beside the timing factor, more significant queries about this half-baked proposal were left unanswered by Lam or by Secretary for the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee.

For instance, the proposal does not say if there will be politically appointed deputies for the chief secretary for administration, the financial secretary and secretary for justice who, under the Basic Law, are on a higher level than the chiefs of the other 11 bureaus.

And if such deputies were appointed, would they also have a higher rank?

The only explanatory note in the consultation paper is that there was "no immediate functional need for such positions."

Obviously, the government has taken out the controversial part of the proposal to avoid internal hierarchy scuffles.

But what about the "no revolving door" policy? The proposal says this is necessary to protect the integrity of the civil service. But it exempts the post of secretary for the civil service.

To make matters worse, Yue popped up with a new idea, saying the deputy director and the assistant to the director of the civil service bureau could also exempted.

Undeniably, grooming political talent for Hong Kong's democratic development will be an uphill battle for the Tsang camp. For one thing, it will be hard to persuade legislators the HK$60 million package is value for money.

In addition, there are the administrative officers who have expressed fears the new system might impede their professional roles and career paths. The government has tried to address this by saying the new system will not be installed "at the expense of the civil service establishment."

Yue admits there may be rows between the two blocks but stressed it is up to political appointees and civil servants to develop a working rapport and to build mutual trust.

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