Carrie Lam

Think tank unit won't be 'internet police', Carrie Lam says

Chief secretary defends CPU's decision to assign staff to monitor online discussion about policies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:33pm

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday defended the Central Policy Unit against a legislator's suggestion that the think tank was acting as an "internet police" force and denied that it could veto government appointments.

Lam told the Legislative Council that the CPU had recently assigned one or two employees to collect opinions expressed by Hongkongers on the internet, since that was now the dominant way that people shared their views on government policies.

"The CPU [previously] gauged public sentiments through different channels, such as community networks, newspapers and magazines and electronic media," Lam said, adding that, "the think tank has to increase resources to monitor public opinion and collect information through online means."

Questions about the policy followed remarks by CPU chief Shiu Sin-por earlier this month in which he said the government must pay more attention to views expressed online about its policies.

Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing expressed concern about how the online information would be used.

"The CPU seems to be exerting control over the online media, giving the public the perception it's an 'internet police' to censor information. What is its actual function? How will it use the collected information?"

Lam said the think tank would not engage in an online dialogue by posting its views in public forums. "Instead of giving opinionated views, the CPU only assesses public concerns and provides analyses to the top echelon and bureaus on the latest hotly debated issues," Lam said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan asked if the CPU had been given the new role of identifying potential candidates for hundreds of positions on advisory bodies.

Lam replied that there had been no change to the appointments process for non-official members to advisory and statutory bodies.

"The government has not required policy bureaus to report to a member of the CPU before the appointment of members to advisory and statutory bodies," she said. "The CPU only plays an advisory role."