‘National studies for Hong Kong civil servants is not brainwashing’, minister says
Training academy proposal part of chief executive’s plan to expand rank-and-file in numbers and skills
Hong Kong’s top minister for public servants has defended the proposed Civil Service College as worthwhile as he dismissed claims that national studies for them amounted to “brainwashing”.
Speaking on a radio programme on Saturday, Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong argued such education for public servants deepened understanding relevant to their work and was therefore practical and useful.
“All our laws and policies have to abide by the Basic Law,” he said, referring to the city’s mini-constitution. “I don’t believe and think any accusations of brainwashing can be valid.”
The push for a civil service training academy surfaced in August after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor visited Singapore and expressed support for more “thinking out of the box” among the Hong Kong government’s rank-and-file staff.
In her maiden policy address earlier this month, Lam said the city’s civil service would grow by at least 3 per cent to “meet public expectations in policy implementation”. She announced plans to set up the Civil Service College to provide better training for public servants, long regarded as politically neutral.
The chief executive’s comments followed on a landmark speech that Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered in Hong Kong in July. Xi called for more education for the city’s civil servants and young people to understand China’s constitution.
In May, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress – China’s national legislative body – took the unprecedented step of asserting the state had authority to “supervise” Hong Kong officials. He cited the country’s sovereignty, prompting local pan-democrats and others to question whether civil servants’ political neutrality was being compromised.
Law said the new Civil Service College would also try to provide communication and technical training for public servants so they could use information technology to better engage the public.
Meanwhile, Lam continued soft-selling her policy address, reading a “letter to Hong Kong” on a separate radio programme on Saturday.
Directed at all Hong Kong residents, the chief executive’s letter explained that she sought a people-oriented approach attentive to everyday needs that could be traced to her time as director of social welfare.
Lam said she had always been touched by the parents of children with special needs.
“At that time, I had two sons aged 6 and 9,” she recalled. “They were happy and lively, yet I was very worried when on occasion they felt unwell ... So I could imagine how the parents of disabled children were worried and tired.”
Roundabout route to national education? Chinese history rule for Hong Kong secondary schools stokes fears of renewed push
“I admire parents initiating concern groups to fight for better service for their children. I see them not as pressure groups but as partners.”
Referring again to her policy address, Lam said the government had decided to add places for preschool rehabilitation services as well as increase the number of community care service vouchers.
She also promised to allocate more resources to eliminate waiting times for the preschool rehabilitation services.