Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says official posts will be given ‘on merit’

Responding to speculation that pro-Beijing educator Christine Choi Yuk-lin was in line to become the next education undersecretary, city’s chief executive said critics should not to judge potential candidates based on their political affiliation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:40pm

Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has urged her critics not to judge potential candidates for official posts based on their political affiliation.

The comment was a response to speculation that pro-Beijing educator Christine Choi Yuk-lin was in line to become the next education undersecretary.

Choi, vice-chairwoman of the Beijing-friendly Federation of Education Workers, ran as lawmaker for the education functional constituency in the Legislative Council elections last September. She lost heavily to Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) vice-president and pan-democrat Ip Kin-yuen – 18,158 votes to 45,984 – meaning her appointment will upset opposition ranks.

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Two groups of teachers launched online petitions urging Lam not to appoint Choi, and the petitions were signed by more than 5,700 and 1,400 people, respectively.

In a gathering with reporters on Thursday, Lam was asked if the petitions showed that the education sector believed Choi should not get the job.

“It would be unfair to say that is the sector’s consensus. Wong Kwan-yu is not saying so,” Lam answered, citing the federation’s president.

The chief executive added that while the candidate for the undersecretary post has yet to be confirmed, people should not make judgements based on a candidate’s political stance.

In a reference to her financial secretary, she said: “Paul Chan Mo-po is controversial too, and a person from the PTU would have a clear political background, but I need to appoint people based on merit.”

“Do not look through a pair of coloured glasses ... if someone is capable and experienced, that is unfair to oppose him or her because the person is not from your own political fraction,” she said.

Lam noted that the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions had not opposed the appointment of Dr Law Chi-kwong, who quit the Democratic Party to take up his appointment as secretary for labour and welfare.

Lam also said she promised in her manifesto to invite education experts, including professionals who understand the situation for frontline teachers, to review Hong Kong’s education system.

“But Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung is not a professional [educator],”she said. Yeung was previously a senior civil servant and the education undersecretary.

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Asked if Beijing’s liaison office had told her who to appoint as minister or undersecretary, Lam said: “I nominated all the candidates myself, they did not give me any [names].”

Ip said his union is not just opposing Choi because of her political stance or affiliation: “We need an undersecretary that is accepted by different groups and would not cause controversies. But in election debates last year, Ms Choi showed that she does not understand education policies very well.” Choi could not be reached for comment on Thursday.