Environmental researcher and democracy activist Christine Loh Kung-wai is strongly tipped to become undersecretary for the environment.
Green activists welcomed the choice of the former lawmaker, but said she would have to quit her role as chief executive of public-policy think tank Civic Exchange if she joined the government to avoid a conflict of interest.
Loh (pictured), a lawmaker in the 1990s, has for the past decade focused on environmental and social policy research. She is regarded as a pan-democrat - a rarity in the government - because she founded the Citizens Party and championed democratic reforms.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, believes Loh's track record as an advocate for universal suffrage may help boost the image of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's administration.
Loh remained tight-lipped yesterday. 'Whatever question you ask me, I will only say 'no comment',' she said. Spokesmen for the Environment Bureau and the Chief Executive's Office also declined to comment. 'The selection process for the undersecretaries is still in progress and will be announced in due course,' the government said.
It is understood that Loh was offered the post of environment secretary by former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2007, but it was strongly opposed by some Beijing-loyalist groups.
Loh was tipped as a candidate for the post earlier this year, but Leung appointed architect and Green Building Council member Wong Kam-sing instead.
In June, Loh denied that she had applied for the job. Leung's aides failed to find candidates for the position, and for undersecretary posts at four other bureaus, and so restarted the recruitment process.
A person familiar with the situation yesterday confirmed that Loh was offered the job, but said it was not certain that she would get it.
An environmental activist, who declined to be identified, said Loh was capable and had extensive research experience in environmental policy. She was also willing to listen to others, the activist said, adding: 'I think she can match well with Wong.'
Greenpeace campaign manager Gloria Chang Wan-ki said: 'I think she is very experienced and capable ... but if she is appointed, she should consider giving up her think tank role because it may lead to a conflict of interests.'
Civic Exchange's financial sponsors include power firm CLP. The Environment Bureau's responsibilities include monitoring power companies.