Hong Kong police

Extra year for Hong Kong police chief at retirement age makes sense

Reputation of the city being a safe place owes much to the professionalism of the force, and it is to be hoped government move will smooth staff transition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 8:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 2:37pm

Whether an individual civil servant continues to work beyond retirement age may not be of much concern to the public, except when it affects succession plans in a department central to the city’s prosperity and stability. We are referring to the arrangement for Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung to stay in the post for another year. With one-third of the senior management in the force due to retire in the coming year, the government has good reasons to retain him.

Among those retiring are Lo’s deputies, Alan Lau Yip-shing and Winnie Chiu Wai-yin, who are expected to leave upon reaching the retirement age in the next 12 months. The extension of Lo’s service is said to allow more time for the new deputies to settle in and eventually step up. The 57-year-old chief will serve until November next year.

As in other government departments, succession issues arising from retirements at senior levels must have been foreseen some time ago. The extension of individual appointments could have been avoided had there been better efforts in succession planning and talent grooming. Unlike some disciplined services where succession rifts were resolved by “parachuting” administrative officers into senior posts, there is no such precedent in the police force.

That makes a long-term succession plan for the 30,000-strong force all the more important. Apart from the politically appointed ministerial posts, the commissioner of police and four other top civil service posts are also appointed by the central government upon nominations by the chief executive. The arrangement makes plain the importance of the police chief.

Our reputation as a safe city owes much to the professionalism of the police force. Despite ups and downs over the decades, the team has demonstrated integrity and commitment in serving the public. While there were times when the performance of individual officers and operations were called into question, the force has remained a pillar of stability before and after the handover.

It is to be hoped that the extension of the commissioner’s service can help smooth the transition.