'No brainwashing' of civil servants

Local | Sum Lok-kei 17 Oct 2017

A civil service college could risk becoming a "Communist Party academy," pro- democracy lawmakers warned.

But Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong said there was no room for "brainwashing" civil servants, echoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's stance.

In her maiden policy address last Wednesday, Lam said she would set up the civil service college, which will emphasize "deepening civil servants' understanding of our country's development and the relationship between the central authorities and the SAR."

She told the media later that day that there would also be exchange activities for civil servants to go to the mainland, and lecturers from China will be invited to teach courses in Hong Kong. "All civil servants are equal, and how can one brainwash another?" Lam said then. "I can't really understand."

The civil service college will be a step up in scale to the existing Civil Service Training and Development Institute at the North Point government Offices on Java Road.

At a public service panel meeting at the Legislative Council yesterday, Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho was worried that civil servants will be "graded" by mainland lecturers, which could affect their career prospects.

The Democratic Party's Lam Cheuk-ting questioned whether it was necessary to invite mainland lecturers to educate civil servants in Hong Kong as he said there are already experts on China's development in Hong Kong.

It may also give the public the impression that the college is an "offshoot" of a "party academy" in Hong Kong, he said.

Law said in the past, civil servants gave feedback to courses offered by the institute and not the other way around, but the government has not yet decided if future courses will come with a grading system. The government will listen to the public's opinion on the matter, he said.

Law also disclosed at the panel meeting that the government is still seeking a site to build the college.

After the meeting, Law said he could not see how civil servants can be brainwashed, saying that civil servants are able to think independently. "The main purpose of establishing a new civil service college is to enhance the training of our civil servants," Law said.

"And given that our policies and initiatives involve cross-boundary issues, it is natural that we need to enhance the training of our civil servants regarding the development in the mainland, regarding the Basic Law, regarding our country."

He said the proposal was made "in good faith," and was designed to help civil servants serve the public better.

On Lam's plan to expand the civil service establishment by no less than 3 percent next year, Law did not say which government departments will be getting the extra manpower.

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