Carrie Lam

Patrick Nip hails ‘strong team spirit’ within Hong Kong government and praises leader’s decision to promote career civil servants to top jobs

City’s constitutional affairs chief says Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s experience of public service ‘obviously helped’ policy work, in contrast to her predecessor CY Leung

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 8:03am

The appointment of veteran civil servants and politicians knowledgeable in public service has created a “strong team spirit” within the Hong Kong government, according to the city’s constitutional affairs chief Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.

While Nip stopped short of calling Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor a better leader than her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, his assessment of the current cabinet’s work underscored the significance of the civil service in Hong Kong’s governance.

Eight former civil servants and undersecretaries were promoted to make up the core of Lam’s team, in contrast, after Leung was elected chief executive in 2012, the former surveyor inducted a record seven appointees from outside the government into his 16-strong cabinet.

Even though Leung had convened the Executive Council – or the chief executive’s body of key advisers – from 1999 to 2011, the shortage of experience in public administration was regarded by commentators as a fatal flaw in his five years in charge.

Lam only recruited two officials from outside: Law Chi-kwong, a social work academic who became labour and welfare minister, and Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, a senior counsel and internationally recognised arbitrator who became justice chief in January.

In an exclusive interview with the Post, Nip, who joined the government in 1986, said Lam and her ministers’ experience in public service “obviously helped” policyimplementation.

“A characteristic ofthis term of government is that since we took office on July 1 last year,the chief executive and the principal officials were already either experienced in working in the administration or knowledgeable about the government’s work,” he said.

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“Even those who came from the outside [Law and Cheng] had participated in the government’s work in an in-depth manner. It’s easier for us to cooperate and handle issues as a team, and in the past year, I felt that we have a strong team spirit.”

Nip also noted that based on her experience in civil service, Lam had directed the officials to engage various sectors more actively.

“We took the initiative to communicate, and hoped that there can be a better ties between the executive and legislative branches,” he said. “This helped the political atmosphere to relax and there were more communications [with policy stakeholders] in the past year.”

Nip’s observations echoed Dr Ko Wing-man, the health minister in Leung’s cabinet who said in February senior civil servantscould be great government ministers, if they possessed political skills and were able to engagethe public.

During Leung’s term, Nip worked with the chief executive as the Director of Information Services and the Permanent Secretary for Food and Health. But Nip would not compare Lam with her predecessor.

“The [current] chief executive is passionate about Hong Kong.” he said. “She has mapped out a blueprint for the city in her election platform, and has been working hard on solving its problems.”