Even though Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said on different public occasions that she has the final word on her choices for bureau chiefs and deputies, and there is absolutely no question of Beijing’s Liaison Office interfering in the key personnel appointments of her government, several recent leaks from the administration have suggested otherwise.
According to government sources, several bureau chiefs have privately revealed that although in a sense the CE does have the last word on her choices for cabinet members, the list of candidates from which she can choose is actually dictated beforehand, particularly when it comes to naming bureau deputies.
As a result, both the CE and the bureau chiefs themselves only have a pretty small pool of candidates to choose from when naming their deputies or even political assistants.
These candidates, the sources said, are predominantly pro-establishment figures recommended by the pro-Beijing camp. As to the question of who actually decided upon and finalized that list of candidates, sources said it is self-explanatory.
One striking example is Choi Yuk-lin, who is the former vice chairman of the leftist Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, and who provoked a strong backlash from the education sector following news that she could be appointed as the next undersecretary for education.
The number of citizens and teachers who signed the petition against Choi’s appointment spiked from a few thousand to over 10,000 within a week after Carrie Lam said there are “actually not that many” people who are against Choi’s appointment. Apparently, her remarks have backfired and fueled public opposition.
The jury is still out on whether she will eventually win the job, but it is widely believed that Choi has the blessing of the Liaison Office.
Another bureau deputy hopeful likely to spark controversy is Simon-Hoey Lee, who is currently working as deputy executive director of the Our Hong Kong Foundation founded by former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, and who is widely tipped as the next undersecretary for home affairs.
Despite being a low-profile and barely-heard-of figure in political circles, Lee has raised concerns, particularly among pan-democrats, because he has a very strong pro-Beijing background: he had served as assistant to the Xifeng county chief of Guizhou province before he started working with the Our Hong Kong Foundation, not to mention that he is a former student of Professor Wang Zhenmin, the incumbent director of the legal department of the Liaison Office.
Lee’s unique resume has inevitably aroused suspicion that Beijing might be aggressively serving its secret agenda to put promising and patriotic mainland elites in key positions within the SAR government.
Although there is also talk that Lee has already told others in private that he is not interested in joining the government, it remains to be seen whether he would change his mind.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 10
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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