Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor insisted yesterday there were no plans to change the nature or role of the Central Policy Unit, as lawmakers across the political spectrum continued to question a controversial appointment to the government think tank.
Lam said the unit would continue to advise top echelons of the government on issues such as poverty and economic development, while also co-ordinating appointments to government advisory and statutory bodies.
Lam was fielding questions at a meeting of the Legco House Committee amid criticism of the appointment of Sophia Kao Ching-chi and a statement by unit chief Shiu Sin-por that she had to be informed on all appointments to advisory bodies.
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching asked why the Central Policy Unit had become a headhunting body.
Lam replied: "The government has no plan to change the nature and role of the CPU. The full-time members are to provide advice on policy matters to the … Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary for Administration and Financial Secretary. The CPU also nurtures talented people for work in the government."
James Tien Pei-chun, of the Beijing loyalist Liberal Party, questioned the need to expand the unit's role by hiring Kao and asked how decision-making power was divided between the unit and bureaus.
Lam said recruiting candidates for advisory and statutory bodies had previously been "very inefficient and ineffective", and that the expansion of the CPU's role was aimed at making its work more systematic.
"There was overlapping in recruitment of candidates between different bureaus in the past," she said, adding that the CPU has no decision making powers.
"Kao's role is to identify potential candidates from a wide pool of talent, based on her long experience in the personnel area."
League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung accused government officials of abusing their powers.
"Lam phoned me on Tuesday asking me to be 'magnanimous' when the Finance Committee scrutinised the government's proposal on Friday," Long Hair said. "It seems she is meddling with other bureaus policies."
He also said CPU head Shiu had told the public that the role of the think tank had "nothing to do with neutrality" and it had to "fight against public opinion" sometimes.
"I wonder if the nature of the think tank is being changed."