Chief Executives Office director Norman Chan Tak-lam admits the government had underestimated the public reaction on the nationality of political appointees.
Speaking for the first time since the row rocked the city two weeks ago, Chan said the appointees pay scale is geared to attracting the most capable candidates.
Its something new and we need to have various considerations when determining salaries to attract capable and enthusiastic candidates, Chan said yesterday.
He stressed the salaries cannot be compared with those of civil servants. The new political appointees do not have housing, traveling and other allowances, Chan said.
The salaries of undersecretaries are roughly the same as those of directorate four civil servants and there will be a review in two years.
However, there is no guarantee of a pay rise, Chan told a briefing of editors.
Neither the undersecretaries nor political assistants will be paid at the minimum level. Food and health political assistant Paul Chan Chi-yuen, 28, will receive HK$134,150 a month compared with his current pay of HK$30,000 with three years' experience. Four undersecretaries will be paid the maximum HK$223,585.
It is understood that the issue of foreign citizenship was raised at the interview stage but found not to be precluded under the Basic Law.
"If I were to do it again, I would remind those appointees they may face pressure over their foreign citizenship," Norman Chan said. "It was the appointees' personal decision whether or not to renounce their foreign citizenship. The Chief Executive's Office did not request them to stop talking about that."
Also at the briefing was Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung who said he advised appointees to weigh their foreign nationalities against long-term careers in politics.