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High hopes for appointees

Diana Lee

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

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Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has described the appointment of eight personalities as a milestone in the development of Hong Kong's political appointment system.

Only one of the eight, appointed yesterday to help ministers with their political work, is a politician.

Tsang is confident they will work closely as a team with bureau secretaries and the top civil servants in implementing his policy blueprint and agenda.

Gregory So Kam-leung, 49, a senior partner of a solicitors' firm and the vice chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, is the only appointee from a political party.

He will be undersecretary for commerce and economic development. So said he has submitted his resignation as the party's vice chairman but will still be a member.

"I've mixed feelings. It's an honor, of course. Yet it's not easy to resign from a place I regard as home," said So, adding his relationship with the party will not affect his political judgment in the future.

DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said it would be sad to part with someone so treasured, but his party is willing to help the government.

Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, 44, is the only administrative officer - he is deputy secretary for home affairs - in the group. He is appointed as undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs.

Tam was once press secretary for former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam- chung.

Four of the eight appointees, aged between 34 to 49, have experience in the government think-tanks.

Besides So and Tam, the other appointees are undersecretary for education Kenneth Chen Wei-on; undersecretary for the environment Dr Kitty Poon Kit; undersecretary for financial services and the treasury Julia Leung Fung-yee; undersecretary for food and health Gabriel Matthew Leung; undersecretary for home affairs Florence Hui Hiu-fai; and undersecretary for transport and housing Yau Shing-mu.

Ma Ngok, associate professor of government and administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the appointments showed the government is conservative in recruiting talent from political parties. He also noted the absence of pan-democrats.

"It also discourages young people from entering politics by joining political parties first, as that would be a more remote way of becoming part of the government."

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan is skeptical it will improve government policies since the appointees' specialties have little to do with their new posts.

The eight undersecretaries will start their new job from June to August. Their term ends on June 30, 2012 - the same as the chief executive.


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