Carrie Lam

Four officials out at controversial think tank as incoming Hong Kong leader reviews its role

Carrie Lam called the Central Policy Unit a ‘black box’ and promised a revamp once in power

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 6:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 9:33pm

Four top officials at the Central Policy Unit will not stay on after July 1 as the new administration seeks to review the role and operations of the controversial government think tank.

They include Beijing-loyalist Shiu Sin-por, current head of the unit, and Sophia Kao Ching-chi, who was contentiously appointed by outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in 2013 to vet appointments to government advisory bodies.

“Shiu and Kao will not stay after July 1,” a government source told the Post. “But the ongoing studies performed by the staff will go on.”

Pan-democrats had been critical of the conservative stance of Shiu, who once said Beijing’s influence on the city’s lawmakers was “a reality” that Hongkongers should accept.

Leung also came under fire for appointing Kao – a staunch supporter – to advise the administration on appointments to other advisory bodies, which was said to have enabled cronyism.

The two other full-time advisers leaving their posts are Lee Tak-keung and Wong Chack-kie.

Leader-in-waiting Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to revamp the unit – which she called an opaque “black box”. She wants it to be “policy and project coordination unit” that fosters public participation in policymaking and to be responsible for research and coordination.

The unit is currently largely advisory and in charge of research on public policy and also drafts the chief executive’s annual policy address.

It is understood that an administrative officer will be appointed to head a review of the unit’s operations, which is expected to be completed in a few months’ time.

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The future unit is also expected to co-ordinate bureaus in the formulation of policies while the chief secretary’s office looks after policy implementation.

But Lau Siu-kai, former head of the unit, warned on Wednesday that the overhaul might create more political tension and that the government should have clear guidelines on its job responsibilities to avoid “too much competition” between the unit and other departments.

“In the past, the CPU rarely touched on any actual daily administrative management, but if it needs to be more hands on in helping with coordination, then the unit will likely have to be more involved in participating in the government’s daily operational work than before,” Lau said on an RTHK programme.

“In this process, government officials are likely to be quite resistant to this change.”