Donald Tsang

Rightful duty

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am

Since the handover, we have witnessed a growing chorus of critics made up of high-ranking retired officials, who want to make a pastime of criticising their former boss - the government. First, we had former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, then came former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping and ex-security secretary Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is now a legislator.

The latest member to join the chorus is head of the Equal Opportunities Commission Lam Woon-kwong. Lam was director of the Chief Executive's Office during the Tung Chee-hwa era.

Lam was once deemed a rising star in government by his peers. He resigned from the Chief Executive's Office after news reports exposed his extra-marital affairs. He then kept a low profile for quite a time, during which he took up a research role with the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre.

He made a political comeback in 2006 after being appointed chief executive officer of the equestrian events for the Olympic Games. He made another leap up the political ladder this year when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made him head of the EOC.

This is an important post because the commission is a statutory body responsible for implementing various anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong, which means it has actual power.

However, Lam seems to want to leverage the power of this post to raise his personal profile, using it to attack Tsang's governance. First, he hit out against the retirement protection scheme, calling it a failure. Then, he criticised Tsang's policy address, saying it was too short-sighted.

His attack on the administration has surely helped him steal the political limelight from his former government colleagues who are also critics like him.

But, he seems to have forgotten that he is the head of a statutory authority within the government and a full-time public servant. People expect him to perform a number of functions such as to speak for the underprivileged and help formulate policies to protect their rights. The goal of the EOC is to eradicate all forms of discrimination so that Hong Kong can become a fair, just and harmonious society.

In fact, the commission's scope is quite extensive. It can promote racial harmony in our society by improving minority groups' right to education and employment. But Lam doesn't seem to be too concerned about discharging his duties. He is lukewarm on the issue of promoting the rights of minority groups in Hong Kong. What has he done for these people lately? Nothing. There have been no research studies and no policy proposals to government to improve the situation.

Lam seems to be taking a more populist approach to try to please the public and the media. He may appear to be a staunch supporter of the rights and power of the people. But, it is all a show; he is just grandstanding and pretending to be a public hero to cover up and excuse his neglect of duty.

I am not against Lam for criticising the government. But, he should do his job properly as a guardian of human rights, and let those bona fide critics, who are not on the government payroll, do their job.

From a strictly moral perspective, it's unethical to bite the hand that feeds him. He is doing exactly what the convenor of the Executive Council has been doing; using his position to earn political points. Leung Chun-ying has slammed the government to boost his popularity, to pave the way for his future election campaign for the top post.

If Lam had genuinely wanted to push the government to do a better job, he should have looked at how the system could better protect the underprivileged in the context of equal rights and opportunities.

If he really wants to stand out from the crowd and be respected by the public, he needs to be more than just a fly-by-night critic. Otherwise, he will risk standing out like a sore thumb.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator