Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (June 6):
The Government further developed its Political Appointment System in 2008. Under the Political Appointment System, one of the functions of Political Assistants is political liaison. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective number of times that the Political Assistants of various policy bureaux had in the past four years liaised with the 13 political groups to which Legislative Council Members belonged (including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the Democratic Party, the Civic Party, the Economic Synergy, the Professionals Forum, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions or the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the League of Social Democrats or People Power, the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre, the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, the New People's Party and the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions) and with other independent Members, with a breakdown of the figures in table form;
(b) of the respective titles and details of the activities attended by the Political Assistants of various policy bureaux in the past four years for the purpose of liaising with the 13 political groups to which Legislative Council Members belonged as mentioned in (a) and with other independent Members, with a breakdown of the information in table form; and
(c) given that to date, the Government has not reviewed the functions and the work efficiency of Political Assistants since it further developed the Political Appointment System in 2008, whether the Government will conduct a comprehensive consultation on the issue; if it will, of the timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the questions raised by the Hon Audrey Eu is as follows:
(a) and (b) The day-to-day work of the Political Assistants covers various areas. The Political Assistants are mainly responsible for providing Principal Officials with political analysis and advice, drafting documents and speeches for the Secretaries of Departments (SoDs), Directors of Bureaux (DoBs) and Under Secretaries, and conducting a wide range of political liaison, including assisting in strengthening the communication and working relationship between the Government and the Legislative Council (LegCo). Since assuming office, the Political Assistants have been committed to assisting the SoDs, DoBs and Under Secretaries in securing support from different parties and independent Members for the policy proposals, bills, and funding applications submitted by the Government. They have undertaken various forms of exchanges and working meetings with different parties and independent Members from time to time to discuss different policies and topics of interest.
Apart from liaison with the LegCo, the Political Assistants also conduct political liaison at the following levels:
(1) At the district level, the Political Assistants attend District Council (DC) meetings to explain government policies and principles, and to secure support from the DCs for government projects in different districts. They also maintain regular communications with DC Members and community representatives, carry out community visits, and take part in district functions.
(2) In respect of liaison with stakeholders, the Political Assistants maintain frequent communication and close working relationship with the stakeholders. They attend forums, seminars, and working meetings organised by these stakeholders or the Government to explain government policies and principles. These stakeholders include youth organisations, labour unions, professional bodies, pressure groups, non-governmental organisations, research institutes, and schools.
(3) In respect of media and public liaison, the Political Assistants maintain frequent communication with the media; attend television or radio programmes, and conduct media interviews to explain government policies and principles to the community. They also maintain liaison with various sectors of the community by attending open forums hosted by the Government, political parties and other organisations, and by interacting with members of the public through online channels.
As far as parts (a) and (b) of the question raised by the Hon Audrey Eu are concerned, the Political Assistants conduct regular liaison with political groups and independent Members on a daily basis. The liaison is conducted in different forms and on different occasions, including through day-to-day contacts, telephone calls, email and letter exchanges, working meetings, tea gatherings and lunches/dinners, and attendance at relevant public and internal activities. In this regard, it is difficult for the Government to record and provide an account for every act of liaison conducted by the Political Assistants with political groups and independent Members in various forms.
(c) In conducting the mid-term review of the remuneration for Under Secretaries and Political Assistants in 2010, the performance of each of them was appraised. The performance of the Political Assistants was assessed mainly on their effectiveness in tendering political analyses and advice to their supervising Principal Officials, as well as in political liaison work. Having considered the appraisal and review reports, the Appointment Committee considered that the performance of each of the Political Assistants generally met the requirements.
Nevertheless, the political and social environment of Hong Kong has been evolving quickly over the years. It is envisaged by the current administration that the PAOs collectively will have to devote a higher proportion of their time and effort to political work at all ranks of PAOs. It is expected that the Political Assistants in particular can have their roles modified to be more active and prominent in the public arena. In putting forth improvement proposals regarding the Political Appointment System, the Chief Executive (CE)-elect mentioned that the PAOs serving in the next-term Government should reach out to the community more actively.
In this regard, it is expected that the duties of the Political Assistants serving in the next-term Government will shift from back-stage analyses and co-ordination or behind-the-scene lobbying to external liaison and lobbying, as well as community affairs.
The CE-elect has undertaken to conduct an interim review of the Political Appointment System, after gaining operational experience and put forward proposals to further improve the Political Appointment System.
Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012