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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s No 2 official to stay in his job, city leader says amid speculation

  • Media report cited government sources in claiming chief executive was considering a reshuffling of top ministers to strengthen administration
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 10:46pm

Hong Kong’s No 2 official is not getting the boot, the city’s leader advised.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was responding to a column published by Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily, which on Monday said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, 67, could be removed.

Citing government sources, the political column stated that Lam was contemplating a reshuffling of her top ministers to strengthen her administration and present a new image to the public as the midpoint of her five-year term drew nearer.

It was a speculative report. I have no such plans
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

“Among the cabinet, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the age of 68, was most likely to be replaced,” the column asserted.

It went on to say the No 2 official did not play major roles in policymaking.

Speaking in Shanghai on Monday, Lam called the report that Cheung was getting the boot untrue.

“It was a speculative report,” she said. “I have no such plans.”

Whilst the chief executive agreed that it was possible to split up the Transport and Housing Bureau, she noted she did not want to spend time tackling the task at the moment.

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“We have a lot of ongoing work,” Lam added. “I don’t want to spend too much energy on restructuring.”

A source close to the government told the Post Lam was unlikely to replace Cheung with someone else during her current term.

“It’s a very big move to replace the incumbent chief secretary and it requires the consent of the central government,” the source said.

“Matthew Cheung has not made any big mistakes and there is no sign of tension between him and Carrie Lam.”

Cheung is the longest-serving government staff member in Lam’s cabinet, having joined the civil service as an information officer in July 1972. He is also the oldest member of her team and widely considered to have the most extensive policy experience after working in different departments and bureaus.

Cheung served as labour chief from July 2007 to January 2017, five years of which were under former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, during whose administration two ministers left the government unexpectedly in 2015.

Tsang Tak-sing, who led home affairs in 2015, took retirement, whilst then-civil service head Paul Tang Kwok-wai departed due to “unforeseeable family circumstances”.

Leung had refused to elaborate whether the two had resigned or been fired.

Additional reporting by Gary Cheung