Education policies were backed by Carrie Lam when she was in office, minister says

Eddie Ng hits back at leadership contender’s criticism of Education Bureau, saying policies required support of whole government for implementation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 10:59pm

Education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim has broken his silence over criticism of the government by chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, saying current policies would not have been implemented without the support of the entire administration, of which Lam was the No 2 official until only last month.

The education secretary launched the counter-attack on his former boss on Sunday following comments by Lam earlier in the day in which she called present education policy “problematic”.

Lam also hinted she might not keep Ng as education minister should she be elected the city’s next leader in the March 26 poll.

Recent comments by Lam on the need to shake up the education system have been criticised as trying to pass the buck, since Ng had reported to her for the past five years up until January.

Meeting primary and secondary school heads at a forum in Sha Tin on Sunday, Lam said: “As chief secretary I had to take care of many policy areas. Each bureau chief should be accountable for his or her own policies. You may be aware that when I had to talk about education [as chief secretary], it was when there were problems and I had to squeeze time from my already tight schedule to offer assistance.”

On whether she would keep Ng in her cabinet if elected, Lam said: “The term of a minister will end when the term of the [chief executive] ends. There is no guarantee of any minister being able to continue to work in the next government,” Lam said. She added that she would “carefully select” the education minister if she became chief executive.

Responding to Lam’s comments on Sunday as he departed for Thailand for an official visit, Ng said: “For important education policies, the Education Bureau of course assumes full responsibility. But in the course of implementation, we need the entire government to support us, in terms of resources and policy.”

Buck for Hong Kong ministers does not stop with bosses, chief executive hopeful Carrie Lam says

And on Lam’s share of responsibility for the current set-up, he said: “The policies could not have been implemented without support from the whole government.” He also said it would take time for the results of current policies to be seen.

Ng was appointed education chief in 2012 after previously holding human resources management positions in various private corporations.

Often blamed for the perceived failings of the education system, Ng has been one of the least popular ministers in the cabinet of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The latest poll by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme showed some 63.9 per cent of respondents wanted him sacked and only 9.5 per cent thought he should be reappointed.

Lam’s main rival in the leadership race, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, on Sunday met members from the higher education subsector of the Election Committee that will choose the next chief executive. The members said they would “actively consider” nominating Tsang to take part in the poll.

Another contender, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, met members of the health services subsector, while fellow hopeful Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee discussed the long-term development of the city with the Social Development Movement for Hong Kong’s Future.