Carrie Lam

Chief executive contender Carrie Lam sets sights on ‘black box’ think tank, demanding action and transparency

The Central Policy Unit currently only shares its studies with the chief executive and chief secretaries

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 10:54pm

A 28-year-old government advisory body could be in store for an overdue shake up after Hong Kong chief executive front-runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor criticised the think tank as an opaque “black box”.

Lam, the former chief secretary who unveiled her election platform on Monday, told Commercial Radio on Tuesday morning she had seldom sought policy research advice from the current Central Policy Unit (CPU).

Instead, she opted for the Policy and Project Unit under the office of the chief secretary.

“I’m afraid the transparency of CPU is not high ... and citizens do not know much about it,” she said.

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“Should the nature of its work be changed 20 years after [it was launched]?”

Currently, the CPU only shares its studies with the chief executive and the two secretaries, Lam said. But it’s time for the unit to actually take action with improved transparency, she added.

In her election manifesto, Lam suggested completely revamping the CPU into a unit that fosters increased public participation in policymaking, especially from Hong Kong’s younger generations, and assists in cross-bureau coordination.

“I want to turn it from a black box into a transparent box,” she said.

The transparency of CPU is not high ... and citizens do not know much about it
Carrie Lam

The CPU is currently led by Beijing-loyalist Shiu Sin-por. However, casting doubt over the CPU’s future leadership, Lam also said she was yet to decide whether the unit should be headed by a civil servant or not.

In 2013, the government courted controversy by appointing Sophia Kao Ching-chi, a staunch supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying during his election campaign, as a full-time member of the CPU to advise the administration on appointments to other advisory bodies.

As chief secretary at the time, Lam defended the new appointment while lawmakers questioned why the think tank had become a headhunting body and expressed concerns over Kao potentially screening out liberal-leaning candidates.

But Lam on Tuesday backtracked, saying she saw no need for another person to advise on government appointments because the administration also had its own Central Personality Index – a government database of potential candidates for such roles.

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Lam, who is set to submit her nominations to the Registration and Electoral Office on Tuesday, also revealed she had received more than 500 nominations for her chief executive bid – though none were from the pan-democratic camp.

It comes after the candidacies of former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing were validated on Monday with 160 and 180 votes respectively.

This leaves about 350 votes in the 1,194-member Election Committee that fourth aspirant, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, could potentially pick up.

Lam told the radio station she had always respected Ip for her campaign and detailed manifesto.

“If she unfortunately fails to enter the race, I would contact her and her New People’s Party immediately to introduce my governing ideologies and hope she could support me if she is willing to,” Lam said.