Loyalty pledges begin next month

Newly hired civil servants are expected to sign a document pledging their allegiance to the Basic Law and Hong Kong government starting next month, a unionist said. Consultation on the arrangement ended late last month. Tong Lai-ngor, the chairwoman of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil...

Michael Shum

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Newly hired civil servants are expected to sign a document pledging their allegiance to the Basic Law and Hong Kong government starting next month, a unionist said.

Consultation on the arrangement ended late last month.

Tong Lai-ngor, the chairwoman of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, recounted details of the meeting with Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen on Tuesday. The meeting was initially scheduled for late August.

Quoting Nip, Tong said that a directive on the arrangement will be issued in mid-October and those who refuse to sign will not be hired.

"Breaching civil servants' oath [reluctance to pledge allegiance] equates to breaching the Basic Law and the National Security Law," Nip said.

"Punishment consists of being dismissed from the post, but civil servants are allowed to appeal."

But a timetable for incumbent civil servants awaiting promotion to sign the document is yet to be released, Tong said.

They include disciplined services staff, administrative officers, information officers and legal officers.

Tong expressed concern for the consequences facing incumbent civil servants who are reluctant to sign the document and whether the government will release any compensation package or penalty for those who refuse.

"The authority should specify what civil servants should do to fulfill their pledge of allegiance, and what constitutes a breach of the pledge of allegiance," she said.

Tong also quoted Nip as saying that various civil service unions will be consulted again before the arrangement is officially rolled out.

"Nip said he is currently negotiating with the Department of Justice on the arrangement, but this is not to say civil service unions will be silenced," she said. "They can still voice their opinions on topics related to welfare, etcetera."

Fung Chuen-chung, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, said a recent survey of 58 unions found over 60 percent supported the pledge of allegiance, while 40 percent have reservations.

Lee Fong-chung, chairman of the Hong Kong Senior Government Officers Association, said if the penalties are not clearly stated, civil servants will use different excuses to delay their signature of the documents.

"I hope the government can develop a fair procedure to handle cases regarding civil servants breaching the oath, and it would be best if the government can handle them in accordance with the existing penalty mechanism," he said.

Li Kwai-yin, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, suggested Nip clearly explain the legal grounds behind the oath.

"The government should also clearly state that defiance might constitute a breach of the law and require all civil servants to take part to let all of us understand it is compulsory to take the oath," Li said.