Leung Chun-ying defends decision to sign anti-Occupy Central petition
Chief executive denies his decision will put pressure on the city's 160,000 civil servants to also sign, but critics are not convinced
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday announced he will sign a high-profile petition against Occupy Central, a decision pan-democrats fear will further polarise the city.
At least 28 political appointees, including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, have either signed or said they would sign the petition "at a suitable time". Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung is the only one in the cabinet to reject signing. He said he needed to deal with prosecution matters and did not want to create a biased image to the public.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said he would decide whether or not to sign based on his personal views.
Signing the Alliance for Peace and Democracy petition is acceptable under the Code for Officials in the city's political appointment system. It stipulates only that appointees - including ministers, undersecretaries and political assistants - cannot sign public petitions against government policies.
"I oppose using illegal means to achieve any goals on political reform … Hongkongers and I also hope that universal suffrage for the chief executive could be implemented in 2017," Leung said yesterday. "So I would sign."
"Some politically appointed officials have already signed before I knew it. This is absolutely a personal action," he said, referring to ministers such as Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po. But critics are not convinced by Leung's claim that his move will not influence civil servants.
"Of course there would be pressure [on civil servants]," said Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing. "[Leung] can sign it as he likes, but please don't politicise the civil service."
Leung's remarks came just one day after the alliance said it had so far got more than 800,000 signatures, compared with the 793,000 people who voted last month in Occupy Central's unofficial reform referendum.
Occupy Central has vowed to block Central's main roads if the government fails to offer a reform plan for the 2017 chief executive race that they deem satisfactory.
Occupy Central co-organiser Dr Chan Kin-man argued that it was inappropriate for Lam, who spearheads the reform taskforce, to sign the petition. "Would that mean the government would not listen to Occupy Central, which represents the voice of many Hongkongers?" he asked.
Former secretary for civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said top officials should not sign "in their capacity".