Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has directed all government departments to inform Central Policy Unit member Sophia Kao Ching-chi when they recruit to their respective advisory bodies.
Rumors of Kao being given wide-ranging powers have been making the rounds.
The confirmation of her role by CPU head Shiu Sin-por to the Legislative Council civil service panel yesterday did nothing to dispel them.
Voicing concern over Kao's powers, Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan drew reference to Li Lianying, the Qing dynasty imperial eunuch and favorite of Empress Dowager Cixi - China's defacto ruler for nearly four decades.
"Adding another consultant to the CPU would make it a propaganda unit," Lee said of the government policy adviser.
Shiu revealed it was Leung who made the decision to have Kao informed when recruiting members to advisory bodies.
"As a part of government, we are the government's tool and we are not independent or impartial," he said, stressing that the CPU has no power to appoint officers, though it may advise on selection.
"The CPU only assists the chief executive and bureaus to understand public opinion and help them make decisions."
A civil service staff unionist alarmed at the disclosure said advising on appointments should not be part of CPU duties.
Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting also said the CPU is being given too much power as it now not only conducts policy research but also advises the chief on appointments.
"Public officers are always appointed by the Civil Service Bureau or the chief secretary," Leung Chau-ting said. "I don't think members of the CPU are qualified to do so as they are not within the civil services system."
Shocked at the rumors being confirmed, Leung said union members are unhappy with the policy. "We don't need outsiders to tell us what to do," he said. "The government must give us an explanation."
A request by the CPU to make regular a full-time post with an annual package of HK$2.8 million also drew criticism from the pan-democratic camp.
Shiu said the new consultant will study local political development, public opinion and new media, but the Democratic Party's Emily Lau Wai-hing accused him of making the CPU a government propaganda unit.
"This has subverted our political system and operation," Lau told the panel.
The proposal was passed to the establishment subcommittee for further discussion.