Rule me out of next Hong Kong government, transport chief says

As other ministers take a wait-and-see approach, Anthony Cheung is the first to declare he has a ‘life plan’ and will not serve in new administration

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 6:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 12:01am

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung is the first minister to openly declare he will not serve in the next administration.

Calling it a matter of his “own life plan”, Cheung made the remarks on Monday as two of his former cabinet colleagues, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah, are vying for the top job of chief executive in the March election.

“I personally have no plan to stay in the administration,” he said. “For any kind of institution, there should be new thinking at times of term transitions.”

While other ministers have appeared to adopt a wait-and-see approach, the candidates themselves have tried to distance themselves from some of the less popular incumbent ministers.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, for instance, has said it was necessary to look for someone who knows education to be secretary for education – an attack on Eddie Ng Hak-kim, the man in the post now.

Ng drew fresh ire on Monday for announcing that the widely unpopular Territory-wide System Assessment tests would be extended to all primary school pupils. Many parents and teachers complain the tests put too much pressure on children.

Another chief executive contender, former judge Woo Kwok-hing, was swift to lambast the education chief, saying: “Secretary Ng, can’t you let people take a breath right before the Chinese New Year? Do you hear the students, parents and teachers about how hard it has been?”

When asked on Monday about whether he would continue working in the next government term, Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-Kim, said he had not thought of that yet and that he was focused only on completing tasks in this term.

Although he faced many challenges and negative comments about his work, Ng said he would remember that his initial intention was to serve in his role.

Ng is not the only minister whose job is at risk.

Commenting on the appointment of Paul Chan Mo-po as financial secretary after Tsang’s resignation, Lam, another chief executive aspirant, said last week that “the governing team of the next administration should be injected with some new blood”.

‘Time for change’, fresh talent and young blood in Hong Kong’s ageing cabinet, convenor Lam says

Incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has drawn criticism for putting “unqualified” and unpopular ministers in his cabinet.

Home affairs secretary Lau Kong-wah and Chan, who was development secretary before being promoted, have recorded consistently low popularity ratings.

When asked if these ministers would still have a place in his government should he win the election, Tsang said that the cabinet had to win Hongkongers’ confidence, adding that the secretaries must be “genuinely capable of doing things”.

“I hope in future more young people would join the government,” he added.

Tsang’s view was echoed by Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong. In an interview with the Post Lam noted that most members of the cabinet were over the age of 60.

“There are many talented people out there that are younger than 60,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”

Some ministers vowed to “rethink” their positions after Leung’s surprise announcement late last year that he would not seek a second term.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said he was shocked by Leung’s decision. He said his next move would depend on who was elected chief executive and his or her governing philosophy and style.

Ko Wing-man, the health minister, said as Leung would leave he had one less incentive to stay on as they shared a similar vision.