Give new political appointees time to prove themselves
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has moved fast to fill the top ranks in government and it is only to be expected that some of her appointments will draw fire
Hong Kong’s accountability system is still a work in progress. Introduced in 2002 and further expanded in 2007, the three-tier governance structure is supposed to make top policymakers more responsive to public aspirations while nurturing more political talent in preparation for a fully elected government in the future. Regrettably, years have passed and there is still much room for improvement.
If the ministerial appointments announced by the new government in June failed to impress, the line-up for undersecretaries and political assistants appears just as uninspiring. They are nonetheless drawn from different sectors, such as political parties, policy think tanks, the civil service, public bodies and the private sector. This is in line with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pledge to recruit on merit. It is also good that the ruling team is largely in place within just one month of the new administration taking office; in the previous administration, the lower-tier posts were filled one by one or in small batches in a low-key manner.
It is worth noting that some of the new appointees served at the lower ranks in the previous administration. For instance, Casper Tsui Ying-wai and Bernard Chan Pak-li were elevated from political assistants to undersecretaries in the Labour and Welfare Bureau and Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, respectively. Earlier, undersecretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee succeeded Ko Wing-man as the new secretary for food and health. The government is apparently trying to show that the system did groom political talent. But with other appointees having opted out of politics after serving out their terms, better efforts are needed to nurture more talent.
Given the prevailing political sentiment, the concerns over individual appointments are to be expected. The appointment of Christine Choi Yuk-lin as the education undersecretary is a controversial one. The former principal of a pro-Beijing school and vice-chair of the Federation of Education Workers is no doubt a veteran educator. But opponents may find it odd that someone who failed to muster majority support to win the Legislative Council’s education sector seat last year is to become the No 2 in the Education Bureau. Critics also take issue with her pro-Beijing background. But the chief executive was adamant that the appointment was based on merit. Choi also pledged to reach out to all stakeholders.
The ever-growing public expectations of the government mean great responsibilities are weighing on the appointees. The new team can expect a tough job ahead. But they should be given the room to prove themselves.