Tuesday’s surprise cabinet reshuffle could signal internal rifts in the administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, which may hurt his chances of re-election in 2017, political commentators said.
Ray Lau Kong-wah, currently Undersecretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, has been named the new Secretary for Home Affairs, replacing Tsang Tak-sing.
Clement Cheung Wan-ching, currently Commissioner of Customs and Excise, will replace Paul Tang Kwok-wai as Secretary for the Civil Service.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, has approved the new appointments.
The sudden resignations of Tsang and Tang were highly unusual as no specific reasons were given as to why they stepped down, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer at the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Apple Daily.
It would trigger speculation that Leung’s cabinet is being wracked by internal splits, making it harder for his administration, which is already suffering from low credibility, to push its policies and programs, Choy said, adding that this could affect his re-election.
Joseph Wong Wing-ping, a former civil service secretary, also said the manner by which the cabinet changes were announced was unusual.
The common practice is for the chief executive to hold a media conference with both the incumbent secretaries and their replacements present, he said.
However, in Tuesday’s briefing, only Leung faced the reporters, and he did not provide specific reasons for their resignations, Wong said.
Officials, including department secretaries, should finish their five-year tenure unless that they have acceptable reasons for stepping down earlier, he said.
For example, former secretary for financial services and the treasury bureau Frederick Ma Si-hang cited health problems for his resignation in 2008, Wong said.
Chung Kim-wah, director of the Center for Social Policy Studies of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said it could not be ruled out that the cabinet reshuffle is related to Leung’s desire to win a second term.
Chung said Leung was reluctant to appoint Tsang as home affairs secretary three years ago, and Tsang did not accomplish much during his three years in office.
Apparently, Leung wants to boost Hong Kong people’s confidence in his leadership with the new appointments, he said.
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