Legco queries purpose of think tank's new HK$2.8m post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:50am

A new, salaried position that an official think tank is proposing to create may be meant as a channel to rally Hongkongers' support for the government, according to pan-democratic lawmakers.

Some legislators were also riled by repeated comments from Central Policy Unit head Shiu Sin-por acknowledging his agency was a "government tool".

Shiu drew criticism from Legco's public service panel yesterday as he sought approval for a full-time, non-civil-service post from April that would draw an annual pay of up to HK$2.8 million.

However, most panel members supported the proposal, which will be tabled before the establishment subcommittee in January.

The new think tank employee will mainly monitor public opinion through the new media and opinion polls, he told the panel.

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said: "The government's failure to win the public's support for its policies is not due to the press or to opinion polls conducted by universities, but due to (its) wrong interpretation of public opinion."

Mo also took issue with Shiu's remarks, made on Saturday TVB show On the Record and repeated at yesterday's Legco meeting, that his unit was intended to serve government purposes.

"You've openly said the Central Policy Unit is a government tool, leaving people with the impression that 'I am now coming out to rally and shape public opinion'," she said. "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?"

The Central Policy Unit is the government's top think tank, conducting research and providing policy advice.

Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan asked if the unit was becoming like the central government's propaganda and organisation departments.

Shiu said he had proposed on television that the government rally public support for its policies, but had not suggested the unit should do that job.

The think tank was not a political tool of any political party or faction, he insisted.