Public could be confused over Leung's policy committees
The risk, warns Lau Siu-kai, is that the public will be confused by conflicting messages
Committees set up by Leung Chun-ying to study policy issues could cause confusion over whether top officials or committee members are calling the shots in the areas under scrutiny, the government's former top adviser has warned.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit, said the formation of more than a dozen special committees spoke volumes about the resistance to the embattled chief executive's initiatives within the government and the community.
"Judging from my previous experience in the government, Leung would have pressed ahead with those initiatives if there was no resistance," Lau said.
Leung announced in his policy address last week the establishment of 16 committees to study the feasibility of his proposals. Their tasks include standard working hours, free kindergarten education and the development of traditional Chinese medicine.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Lau said Leung's strategy was to drum up support for his initiatives from committee members he appointed in an attempt to overcome opposition within the government.
"But I'm worried that civil servants may face huge difficulties in equipping those committees with research capacity," he said.
"Many Hong Kong people are quite impatient. The Leung administration may land itself in trouble if those committees fail to come up with constructive and thought-through proposals."
Lau, who stepped down in June after a 10-year stint as chief of the government's top think tank, said there was a risk that many committee members would voice their views publicly.
"If their views differ from senior officials, it would unavoidably send conflicting messages to members of the public. People will ask whether policy secretaries or committee members in their policy areas are calling the shots," he said.
Lau said the biggest problem facing Hong Kong was while the old consensus on government, such as positive non-interventionism, had been eroded, the community had yet to reach a new one.
"Most Hong Kong people agree that we must address the poverty gap and ageing population, and that the government should play a more proactive role in tackling these problems. But how big should the government be? Should the government introduce a universal retirement protection scheme? Obviously there is a lack of consensus."