25 January 2020
Noting that they are also Hong Kong citizens, civil servants plan to stage a rally on Friday night to voice their sentiments about the current situation. Photo: Bloomberg
Noting that they are also Hong Kong citizens, civil servants plan to stage a rally on Friday night to voice their sentiments about the current situation. Photo: Bloomberg

Civil servants told to stay neutral amid protest plans

The government said civil servants should maintain political neutrality, regardless of their personal views about recent events, as government workers are poised to stage a protest in support of the anti-extradition bill movement.

In a statement issued on Thursday night, the government said civil servants should be “committed to the rule of law, objectivity and impartiality”, and they should ensure at all times that “their behavior would not impede their performance of official duties in a fair and professional manner”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

“These values are what the public expects of them,” a government spokesman said.

The statement came after civil servants disclosed plans to stage a rally at Chater Garden in Central on Friday night to urge the government to respond to the people’s demands related to the extradition bill.

Police have issued a letter of no objection for the rally, which was applied for by five representatives of personnel from several government departments.

One of the organizers told media on Monday that civil servants only wanted to contribute to the anti-extradition bill movement after so many people have done their part.

Since civil servants are also Hong Kong citizens, they want to stage a rally to voice their sentiments about the current situation, he said.

Despite the planned protest, the organizers agree that civil servants need to maintain their political neutrality when performing their duties, he added.

Asked by media about the planned mass action, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said there is no problem for civil servants to attend any event as citizens as long as it is done in their free time and personal capacity.

Cheung stressed, however, that they cannot oppose the government in the name of civil service as this would give the impression that there are differences between the government and its staff members.

Media reports said some people have been circulating anonymous open letters in the name of civil servants and calling on government workers to join a strike against the extradition bill.

According to the government statement, any acts to “undermine the principle of political neutrality of the civil service are totally unacceptable” as such acts would damage the public’s confidence in the civil servants’ political neutrality and give the wrong impression that they are unable to discharge their duties impartially.

“Such acts will also cause the public to mistakenly believe that these individuals are representing the 180,000-strong civil service or their respective departments, and think that civil servants are acting against the government,” the statement said.

“These acts will also create division and conflicts within the government, and seriously affect the government’s effective operation and implementation of policies and the delivery of services to the public.”

The government spokesman said civil servants should express their views through “various established internal channels”.

Citing the Civil Service Code, he said “civil servants shall serve the chief executive and the government of the day with total loyalty and to the best of their ability, no matter what their own political beliefs are”.

The spokesman also warned the government, in accordance with the established mechanism, will  “seriously follow up on any violations of regulations by civil servants”.

Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong also issued a letter to all civil servants on Thursday, saying that he will never agree with moves to initiate or participate in any political assembly and strike in the name of civil servants.

Civil servants should stay united in this difficult moment and work together for Hong Kong’s overall interests, Law said, adding that they should not impede the government’s effective operation because of personal beliefs.

In a separate statement, the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants’ Association said initiating assemblies or strikes in the name of civil servants is a violation of civil servants’ political neutrality and constitutional responsibility.

– Contact us at [email protected]