Another batch of political appointments has been announced by the government. In line with the two previous announcements, the seven people remain faceless to the public. Their names and a brief biography were released to the media only in a press release. Contrary to the spirit of public accountability, there were no pictures or arrangements for them to meet the media and answer their questions. Not surprisingly, the news received only routine treatment in newspapers and electronic media.
Ironically, the appointees form the core of the new ruling team led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for the next five years. Together with ministers and those already appointed to the two lower tiers, they hold the key to the city's future. Undersecretaries, as we are told, will deputise in the absence of ministers. The role of political assistants are also said to be important. They are responsible for behind-the-scenes liaison, which is part and parcel of governance in an increasingly politicised environment. Given the importance of their jobs, questions have to be asked why the appointees, despite high salaries paid by taxpayers, can hide from public scrutiny.
There is cause for concern if the lack of media interest in the appointments is a reflection of people's fatigue with the political system. The ministerial system, which allows the city's leader to move away from a civil service-based ruling team to handpick his own lieutenants, was hailed as the solution to better governance and accountability. But increasingly there is a sense of disillusion with the system. Experience has shown that, except for a few individuals, the overall performance of the appointees still leaves a lot to be desired.
More needs to be done to show that the system can serve its purpose. The recent recruitment of more media professionals has been seen as a good step forward in that journalists are usually more sensitive to the public pulse and are, therefore, believed to be in a better position to defuse political bombs. Whether this is the case will be closely monitored by the public.