Lam unlikely to act on 'explosive' CPU recommendation

July 13, 2017 12:52
Carrie Lam is said to be uninterested in a think-tank report that discusses the possibility of reviving a special branch in the police to keep tabs on opposition groups. Photo: Facebook

The Central Policy Unit (CPU), the government's official think tank, is said to have compiled an 110,000-word internal report known as "Scenario Building for Hong Kong" back in May this year. Some of the report's contents and the recommendations it makes have only come to light recently. 

According to reports, the document contains three chapters, namely "factors affecting the future development of Hong Kong", "future situation and trends" and 'four future scenarios". In particular, the report is said to put forward a highly provocative suggestion: the SAR government should re-establish a Special Branch (SB) in the police force to keep close tabs on opposition groups.

The SB was the intelligence and counter-subversion division of the former Royal Hong Kong Police Force, which was set up by the British colonial administration. The unit's role was to monitor the activities of secret agents from the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang lurking in the city and also to spy on local social activists who might potentially threaten internal security or stability of Hong Kong.

However, the SB was disbanded before the handover in 1997 and all of its files and records were moved back to London.

According to government sources, re-establishing the SB was actually the idea of some in the pro-establishment camp, and was accommodated in the report by the CPU.

Yet, sources said that even though the CPU didn't come up with the idea in the first place, the pro-Beijing Shiu Sin-por, the agency's former chief advisor who was appointed by CY Leung, once complained in private that the SAR government was hamstrung by Legco, because it didn't have a single vote in the legislature, and had to count on the pro-establishment camp, which had proven not always reliable, to secure the passage of bills.

As such, he said, it is necessary for the administration to establish an intelligence agency to spy on and gather secret information about the politicians so that government officials could have more bargaining chips when twisting their arm for passage of bills.

Sources said the CPU had spent two years and a lot of resources to write the report, and it was highly regarded by the former Leung administration.

However, it seems the report is very likely to end up being a vain effort because, as it turns out, the new chief executive, Carrie Lam, said she didn't pay much attention to the document and she has no plan to carry out its recommendations.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 12

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.