Han Zheng

China’s vice-premier Han Zheng praises Hong Kong civil servants for making ‘huge contributions’ to city

  • Top official lauds group for improving quality and governance under Chief Executive Carrie Lam
  • Meeting is first between civil service secretary and state leader since 2016
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2018, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2018, 10:52pm

China’s vice-premier Han Zheng has praised the Hong Kong government for its improved governance under Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s leadership, even as he urged civil servants to be “wise, courageous and people-oriented” as they did their job.

Speaking in a meeting with a 12-strong delegation of the city’s top civil servants, the state leader also said the senior bureaucrats had been united and pragmatic in performing their duties. Their contribution had been widely recognised by Hong Kong people, Han added.

The delegation, led by Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong, has been visiting Beijing since Monday. It includes eight permanent secretaries – or top civil servants assisting the city’s ministers – and the head of three government departments.

It was the first time Han had met the city’s civil service secretary since taking over as the state leader overseeing Hong Kong and Macau affairs earlier this year. It was also the first time the city’s civil service secretary had met a state leader since 2016.

In the meeting on Wednesday, Han described the senior officials as “core and important members of Hong Kong’s governing team”.

“Under Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s leadership, you have been united in collaborating with one another, and pragmatic in doing your job … Your work has been generally recognised by Hong Kong residents,” he said.

“I am very familiar with the situation in Hong Kong. You made huge contributions to Hong Kong, especially as Hong Kong improved its quality and ability of governance comprehensively.”

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The vice-premier noted that on Monday last week, President Xi Jinping met a delegation of top officials and business leaders from Hong Kong and Macau. Xi praised the two cities for their contribution to China’s successful reform and opening up over the past 40 years, and urged Hong Kong and Macau to protect national security and be more active on the global stage, and in international bodies in the years ahead.

Han said those were “clear requirements for Hong Kong and Macau's future targets and directions”.

“This shows that Xi and Beijing have attached much importance and care to the two cities,” the vice-premier added.

Law was later asked in a media briefing if Han touched on the issue of national security legislation during the closed-door session of their meeting.

The minister answered that Han gave the delegation three pieces of general advice, without elaborating on any specific policy issues.

“He encouraged us to be wise, courageous and people-oriented in doing our job … I think it was useful as we deal with a lot of complicated issues, we can apply this principle on all those issues,” Law said.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that in the meeting, Han also urged the civil servants to improve people’s lives. They should also study Xi’s speech, as they implement Beijing’s “one country, two systems” governing principle on Hong Kong, the report added.

Civil servants should also bear in mind the Chinese constitution and Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, as they help the city to integrate into the nation’s development plans.

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Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Han’s remarks, especially his praise, showed Beijing had been relatively glad and at ease about the improvement in Hong Kong’s political atmosphere since Lam took office in July last year.

“The relationship between the executive branch and the legislature has improved, and the process of policymaking has been smoother and more efficient than before,” Lau said.

However, Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said he did not think the city’s governance and civil servants’ morale had improved.

“The chief executive now does things step-by-step, but when something unexpected happens, the problems of governance and coordination are exposed,” Leung said.

He noted that Lam was criticised for her handling of Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Hong Kong in September and brought extensive damage.

Since arriving in Beijing on Monday, the delegation has been attending a course at the Chinese Academy of Governance to study major national policies and future developments of the mainland.

The group also met Zhang Xiaoming, head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, on Tuesday.

The delegation is expected to travel to Hangzhou on Thursday to study the eastern Chinese city’s initiatives in promoting innovation and technology, and smart city development.

Since 2010, Hong Kong’s civil service secretary has led delegations to Beijing every few years. In 2016, a similar delegation, led by then civil service chief Clement Cheung Wan-ching, met Vice-President Li Yuanchao.