Q&A: How exactly is a Hong Kong official’s resignation processed?

A look at the rules and who handles them

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 6:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 10:58am

What are the rules governing a minister’s resignation?

A principal official may resign by giving one month’s notice or by paying the government one month’s salary. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah tendered his resignation on December 12, Thursday being 30 days since he did so. He is still waiting for the central government’s approval, which he will need to launch a chief executive bid.

The government said at the time that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had “received the resignation tendered by Tsang” but did not say if Leung had recommended that the move be accepted.

Who handles a minister’s resignation?

A minister must first tender his or her resignation to the chief executive, who then submits it to the central government for approval. It is relayed to the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

The appointment and removal of officials is usually discussed at the State Council’s weekly executive meetings, presided over by the premier. Vice-premiers, state councillors and the secretary general of the council also attend.

The most recent executive meeting was on Wednesday, but Tsang’s resignation was not on the agenda, meaning it is unlikely the body will approve his resignation in the next few days.

Is there any time limit for the central government to approve a minister’s resignation?

There is no standard time frame for approving a minister’s resignation, and the length of time has varied from one minister to another. It took Beijing just two days to approve Henry Tang Ying-yen’s resignation as chief secretary in September 2011, and eight days for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s in 2005. In 2008, it took about a month for Beijing to approve Frederick Ma Si-hang’s resignation as secretary for commerce and economic development after he was diagnosed with a brain condition.

Does a minister still hold the post one month after tendering their resignation if Beijing has yet to approve it?

Until Beijing formally gives its approval, a minister will remain a public official even if he or she has given a month’s notice. According to official procedure, civil servants may terminate their service at any time by giving “a minimum of three calendar months’ notice in writing”, or by paying one month’s salary plus benefits.

Political appointees are not civil servants, and the civil service recruitment and removal mechanisms do not apply to them. John Tsang is entitled to annual leave of 22 days, medical and dental benefits, Mandatory Provident Fund contributions by the government, the use of a car and driver when in Hong Kong at his discretion, an official residence with domestic staff and a non-accountable entertainment allowance.