Recruiting of political appointees was transparent, Henry Tang says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

The government's recruiting of undersecretaries and political assistants had been highly transparent, Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen told lawmakers yesterday.

He rejected pan-democrats' criticism that it had been a 'black-box operation'.

'The whole process of appointing undersecretaries and political assistants was highly transparent,' he told the the Legislative Council's House Committee, 10 days after new political appointees disclosed their salaries - which the government had refused to make public.

'We first came to the Legislative Council to explain how to expand the political appointments system, then went to the Finance Committee to apply for funding ... which was later approved by the committee.

'It was a process with collective participation and collective decision-making.'

He was responding to a claim by unionist Lee Cheuk-yan that the process of choosing candidates and the government's initial concealment of appointees' salaries had violated the principles of fairness and openness.

Another legislator, Mandy Tam Heung-man of the Civic Party, asked the administration to disclose which of the 17 appointees had been nominated by Chief Executive Office director Norman Chan Tak-lam, who is seen as being close to some of the candidates and sat on the appointment committee.

Mr Tang did not directly address Ms Tam's query and declined Mr Lee's request that he apologise for the government's handling of the appointments. In his answers to the lawmakers' questions, he three times said the appointments were 'highly transparent'.

Meanwhile, government-friendly legislators vetoed a proposal that there should be discussion of whether the appointments process should be scrutinised by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The suggestion from The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing was put on hold by constitutional affairs panel chairman Lui Ming-wah at a meeting on Monday. Two days later, Mr Lui wrote to panel members, asking them whether such a special meeting should be held.

Yesterday, the chairman informed members that such a meeting would not be convened because less than half the 38 panel members had approved it.

Legislative Council Secretariat records showed 12 pan-democrats approved Ms Lau's proposal, while 19 government-friendly lawmakers including Mr Lui said 'no', and independent Chim Pui-chung said he did not have a view.

Six other members have until Tuesday to reply.