All civil servants to sign Basic Law pledge in one go

Top News | Michael Shum 27 Nov 2020

Almost 180,000 civil servants must sign pledges of allegiance to the Basic Law in one go - and any who refuse could hurt their chances of promotion.

That was the word yesterday from Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.

The administration had planned for civil servants to sign in batches, with the first in line officers recommended for promotion, directorate officers and those responsible for carrying out "more sensitive duties" such as disciplined services staff.

But officials have now decided against the gradual approach for the mass of civil servants after consultations and listening to different opinions.

"Upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the SAR are basic responsibilities and requirements of civil servants," Nip said.

"If incumbent civil servants opt not to do so it will definitely affect their promotion prospects as it makes people wonder if they found those requirements unacceptable."

But Nip stopped short of saying a refusal to sign the declaration would spell the end of a civil servant's service.

What he did say was that the Department of Justice would be consulted before decisions are reached.

"If incumbent civil servants refuse to sign or ignore such a request, the government will have to find out why they refuse to complete such an easy task," he said.

Without giving a date of implementation, Nip said the Civil Service Bureau will communicate with civil service unions.

Most civil servants will have to sign a declaration, while permanent secretaries and directorate officers may take an oath.

Staff hired after July 1 have already had to make the declaration. By the end of October, 2,980 new civil servants had done so. No one refused and saw their civil careers ended at the outset.

As for responses, Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, asked whether someone would be prosecuted if they breached the undertaking.

Currently, the biggest penalty for rule breaking is for civil servants to lose their job. It would be "quite outrageous if one is sent to jail," he said.

So clear guidelines must be set on what actions are unacceptable and the penalties, he said.

The Government Employees Association, the Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union, the Chinese Academy of Governance Hong Kong Alumni Association and the Federation of HKSARG Civil Servants released a joint statement to support the latest move and urge a fast implementation.

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