Central Policy Unit head Shiu Sin-por calls for team to lobby lawmakers

Chief of government's Central Policy Unit brains trust says existing system of political appointees ineffective in lobbying divided legislature

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 3:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 4:39pm

An adviser to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has called on the government to consider setting up a team of officials for the task of lobbying lawmakers.

Central Policy Unit head Shiu Sin-por told reporters in Beijing on Sunday that the existing team of political appointees was not big enough to lobby the city's divided legislature.

"Every minister is doing the lobbying work for their bills but their networks with political parties are non-transferable among the policy bureaus," Shiu said. "We need a team of a scale similar to America's congressional liaison office."

Under the three-tier political appointment system, the ministers and their undersecretaries and political assistants are responsible for political liaison and lobbying.

The government has struggled to win support, even from allies, in its recent attempts to pass legislation, including that for extra stamp duty on property transactions.

The government's problem in mustering enough votes has given rise to suspicions of interference by the central government's liaison office. And it almost faced a Legco probe into its decision to reject Hong Kong Television Network's application for a free-to-air TV licence.

Shiu said the participation of the liaison office in Legco affairs was a "reality" and that it would happen again in the upcoming electoral reform debate.

"There are some [politicians] who listen only to the liaison office. It is a reality," he said. "The liaison office must be doing something on reform."

"It is legitimate because Beijing has the important responsibility of ensuring Hong Kong's effective governance."

He attributed Leung's governance difficulties to the chief executive election of 2012, which split the pro-government camp between Leung supporters and those who preferred his defeated rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen.

"The losers have been spreading various rumours in an attempt to weaken Leung," Shiu said. "Now they say Leung is a one-term chief executive. Some push people towards ignoring Leung and approaching ministers directly."

Speaking of the fierce contest for the top job, Shiu said: "Chinese people have yet to accept the culture of this kind of election."

He said the split was set to deepen with universal suffrage in 2017, and that a ruling party would not necessarily help.

"There is no direct relationship between universal suffrage and having a ruling party. It is about unifying the different political factions," Shiu said.

Pointing to today's Legco, in which pro-government members hold 43 seats and pan-democrats 27, he said: "It is not merely the problem of 43 versus 27 when the government needs votes for its bills. There are different combinations every time."

Even though a popular vote would give the next chief executive a strong mandate, Shiu said it did not guarantee support for the administration.

"Look at [Taiwanese President] Ma Ying-jeou. His popularity ratings have barely gotten out of single digits."