Lawmakers criticise proposed new CPU post
Lawmakers criticised the government’s official think tank for seeking to create another salaried position, suspicious that it wants the new employee simply to rally Hongkongers’ support for the government.
The head of the Central Policy Unit, Shiu Sin-por, faced criticism in the Legislative Council’s panel on public service on Monday morning, on that issue, and for repeating his comment on Saturday that the CPU is a “government tool”.
In Monday’s meeting, Shiu sought approval to add a new staff position – a full-time, non-civil-service post from next April to June 2017 – with annual pay up to HK$2.8 million.
Shiu said the new position would be mainly responsible for monitoring public opinion through social media and opinion polls.
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching questioned the new position, saying: “[You said] it was mainly for examining the media and conducting public opinion polls. The government’s failure to win the public’s support for its policy is not due to the press or the opinion polls conducted by universities, but because the government wrongly interprets public opinion.”
She also criticised his comment, both on a Saturday TVB show and in Monday’s meeting, that the CPU is a “government tool”, saying: “You openly said the Central Policy Unit was a government tool, leaving people with the impression that ‘I am now coming out to rally and shape public opinions’. It is an intolerable impression.”
Shiu replied: “As a government department, the Central Policy Unit is of course a government tool. What can it be if it isn’t a tool? Yum cha? As you [Claudio Mo] said, we do whatever the chief executive and two principal secretaries [chief secretary and financial secretary] tell us to do.”
Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, meanwhile, asked if the CPU was becoming a body like the central government’s propaganda department, in addition to its research function.
Shiu denied that suggestion, saying “The Central Policy Unit has no such responsibility.” He said that in Saturday’s TVB show, he had suggested the government rally public support for its policies, but was not suggesting that the CPU itself should do that job.
The CPU did not serve as a political tool of any political party or faction, he said.
Most panel members supported the proposal for a new staff position, which will be tabled in the establishment subcommittee in January for further scrutiny.
The full-time post would replace a six-month contract position that has been in place since July 1 this year. The CPU currently has three full-time employees reporting to Shiu.