Executive councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee defended the new permanent secretary for food and health, Vivian Lau Lee-kwan, against pro-Beijing criticism of her past handling of pro-democracy "Lennon Walls," saying critics did not understand government operations.
Lau was director of food and environmental hygiene during the civil unrest in 2019 and when she was promoted to permanent secretary last month, state media and the pro-establishment camp attacked her for dragging her feet over the removal of "Lennon Walls" across Hong Kong.
This came after the head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, Xia Baolong, said last month that important positions in Hong Kong should be filled by patriots.
Mainland mouthpieces Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po reported last week that the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department had only started clearance action in November 2019 after a five-month delay, which showed Lau's double standards when compared to the speedy removal of country-loving posters in May last year.
Ip said yesterday Lau was only working by the law and should not be the fall guy as the removal of Lennon Walls involved higher-government level decisions.
"Many people are angry that the Food and Health Bureau did not remove Lennon Walls but they don't know about government operations," Ip said.
The government had to seek legal advice before removing the protest walls and was advised that the clearance could only be done once a judicial review of a case had ended.
"Back in 2012, the Food and Health Bureau sued a group of Falun Gong apprentices for sticking banners and posters in public areas," Ip said.
"The case was under judicial review process from 2013 and had not even ended in 2019." The legal battle ended last year.
She said the principle of "patriots ruling Hong Kong" is necessary for Hong Kong but some critics have used it to make a fuss, which will discourage civil servants and not benefit China and Hong Kong.
The Permanent Secretary for Financial Service and the Treasury, Alice Lau Yim, was also criticized by pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po for wearing a mask that allegedly contained a Hong Kong independence message during last Wednesday's Budget press conference.
The purple mask she wore displayed a logo that looked like "5,1" -- numbers that people associate with the pro-democracy protest slogan "five demands, not one less."
In response, a Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau spokesman said Lau did not know that people thought the mask contained certain meanings, otherwise, she would not use it
Savewo, the mask manufacturer, has said its logo does not contain the number "5,1," but the letters "S" and "W," which stand for "Save World."