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Hard to recruit talent for office, admits Hong Kong leader’s top adviser

Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan also urged new justice chief Teresa Cheng to quickly fix the illegal structures on her home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 5:31pm

The head of the chief executive’s advisory body said on Tuesday that it had been very difficult for the government to recruit top political talent in Hong Kong as he urged the new justice minister to handle illegal structures on her house as soon as possible.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, convenor of the Executive Council, said Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah would need to tackle “the problem at home” speedily and restore public trust by showing her ability to handle upcoming legal challenges.

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Separately, the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor defended Cheng, saying that some of the criticisms against her new cabinet member had been ungrounded and irresponsible.

The chief executive said Cheng would attend Legco’s justice and legal services panel as soon as she could to answer any questions about her work.

“She will be facing a few big legal cases soon, I think it will be a good opportunity for her to show her ability to the public [and restore the public’s confidence],” said Chan, without elaborating on the legal challenges.

Hot legal issues that Cheng faced included the controversial joint-checkpoint arrangement for the high-speed rail link to the mainland, the national anthem law, Occupy appeals and, possibility, the Article 23 security legislation.

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Chan, speaking at a lunch seminar on how to groom political talent in Hong Kong, organised by the Rotary Club of Peninsula, admitted it had been very hard for the government to identify and attract suitable candidates given the current political atmosphere.

He said candidates had to be recognised in their professions, willing to give up their career and high salary, able to get along with their bosses, and be approved by Beijing.

On top of that, Chan named another hurdle: for them to give up their foreign passports to serve.

“This is one particular challenge that I experienced – 50 per cent of [suitable candidates] hold a foreign passport,” Chan said. “One person [I talked to] holds a US passport, and the person cannot afford to give it up as there is an [exit tax] under the new arrangements.”

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Chan acknowledged that the appointment system meant that current ministers were often parachuted into the government with no time to be groomed politically. But he believed the government could make use of undersecretary positions to nurture future leaders and give them a taste of the minister’s job.

“It is especially difficult [to find a candidate] for the position of justice minister,” Chan admitted, stressing that Cheng had to give up a lot to join the administration.