Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong government confirms advisory role of unit to CY Leung was a ‘top-level decision’

Leader’s confidante from highly criticised Central Policy Unit gave recommendations on appointments, but ‘no records’ exist

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 10:50pm

It was a “top-level decision” for a confidante of outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying to go through all advisory body appointments, the government confirmed for the first time on Wednesday, adding however that there were “no records” of the names reviewed over his five-year term.

This comes after chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed to undo the practice – introduced by Leung – which was widely dismissed by pan-democrats as a form of favouritism.

In a special finance committee session, Legislative Council members were told that Sophia Kao Ching-chi from the Central Policy Unit provided “advice” on appointments in relation to statutory bodies and advisory committees.

Kao was Leung’s campaign aide in 2012 during his bid for the city’s top job.

Asked why a unit designated to focus on policy research became a “HR department”, CPU deputy head Olivia Nip Sai-lan called it a “government top-level decision”, without naming Leung.

Nip insisted the different bureaus ultimately remained responsible for appointments in bodies under their purview.

She added that there was no record of how many of Kao’s suggestions over the years were adopted or rejected.

Democrat Helena Wong Pik-wan lambasted the response. “Kao is effectively controlling all appointments. How can there be no record of how many names she went through?”

Wong also suggested slashing the CPU’s annual budget by HK$3 million – the salary for Kao – given Lam’s pledge to stop the practice.

In the midst of her leadership campaign in February, Lam vowed to revamp the unit, saying its future role should be to roll out cross-departmental policies.

She also called it “this administration’s practice” to find a “friend” to take charge of such appointments.

Lam criticised the think tank as an opaque “black box” and she said that she seldom sought policy research advice from it.

While the CPU is currently led by Beijing-loyalist Shiu Sin-por, Lam said she had yet to decide if the unit should be headed by a civil servant.