20 February 2019
After appointing Eric Chan (right) director of the Chief Executive Office, Carrie Lam said she is making good progress in forming her cabinet. Photo: HKEJ
After appointing Eric Chan (right) director of the Chief Executive Office, Carrie Lam said she is making good progress in forming her cabinet. Photo: HKEJ

The two most unwanted jobs in Carrie Lam’s cabinet

Last week Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced her first key personnel appointment: Eric Chan Kwok-ki, the former director of immigration, as director of the Chief Executive’s Office.

Even before the official announcement, there had been talk about Chan’s appointment as the chief of the CE office, and so it didn’t come as a surprise.

Eric Chan, better known as KK Chan, joined the immigration department as a junior officer after he graduated from the Shue Yan College.

Rising from the ranks, he became deputy director of immigration in 2009, and in 2011 succeeded Simon Peh Yun-lu as director of immigration.

Lam declined to go into details when asked by reporters whether her recruitment of cabinet members is going smoothly. She only said she has been “making good progress”.

While we are unable to tell whether she’s telling the truth or not, we are pretty sure about one thing: Lam will find it difficult to find someone to fill two important posts.

The first one is the Office of the Secretary for Justice.

The justice secretary is among the three most important officials under the chief executive, but the job is not highly sought-after.

That’s because anyone who assumes the office is prone to get caught up in controversies and come under fire, given Beijing’s escalating interference in our judicial independence and increasingly frequent unilateral interpretations of the Basic Law in recent years.

Although Lam has a very high opinion of the incumbent Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, he is unlikely to serve another term because of his deteriorating health.

Another job in Lam’s cabinet that nobody wants is probably the secretary for education.

Unlike other policy areas such as security, social welfare or IT development, education has remained a cause for concern in society because it involves so many different stakeholders with conflicting interests, so much so that basically everybody can weigh in on the issue.

As a result, the education secretary often faces a lot more public pressure than other bureau chiefs.

Besides, there are a lot of controversial issues in the sector that are waiting to be dealt with after the new government assumes power on July 1.

These include whether or not to revoke the Territory-wide System Assessment, and how to relaunch the moral and national education curriculum.

These two issues alone would be enough to scare off any potential candidate for the position.

As such, finding someone to fill these two positions would prove difficult for Lam, let alone finding the best people.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 5

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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