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Transcript of SCA's standup briefing

Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at a standup briefing to the media after attending a radio programme this morning (July 29) (English portion):

Reporter: Why is it necessary to recruit these people in different stages and you said that it's not actually pinpointing those people from the political parties but also from the civil service?

SCA: I would say that it is very important to Hong Kong that we get the right sort of people to serve the public. This whole scheme of things is put forward to ensure that an elected Chief Executive would have the system available for him to form a political team and deliver on promises made to the people of Hong Kong during the election campaign. This is the like manner in which such things are done overseas in other common law and advance democratic jurisdictions.

In recruiting these people for political appointments, we would have in mind three important criteria:

Firstly, these political appointees should have a set of expertise or skills which are useful in managing the policy portfolios they cover.

Secondly, they should have a commitment to serve the people of Hong Kong. And if they have some sort of public service experience so much the better.

Thirdly, they need to endorse and be ready to support the manifesto put forward by the Chief Executive during his election campaign.

Now we will have five years in which to deliver on the Chief Executive’s electoral promises. We will have five years in which to realise these policy and political aspirations. We should be in no hurry to form a political team. We should not form such a political team with undue haste. After all, the most important interest is to serve the people of Hong Kong and serve them well. So we have to ensure quality control of the people we put forward for political appointments.

Reporter: What about the civil service? Are these positions actually targeting at the civil servants?

SCA: I believe we would have something like five or six sources for recruiting these political appointees. Political parties are a possibility but I do not believe that there will be many from political party background. Anyway, political parties in Hong Kong have relatively small memberships and most political talents available will be used for conducting the election of the District Councils in 2007 and for participating in the Legislative Council election in 2008.

The second source would be civil servants. Former servants form an important proportion of the Policy Secretaries of the Government now.

We will also be targeting people in the professional, business and academic sectors. For example, the Secretary for Justice is a very accomplished lawyer, the Secretary for Education and Manpower used to be a vice chancellor of university and the Financial Secretary used to be a business sector personality. So we will continue to recruit people from various sectors and the important thing is to enrich the talents available to serving the Government to deliver on the programmes which we should deliver for the benefit of the Hong Kong community.

Reporter: Will the new positions duplicate with the existing job of the Permanent Secretaries? De you think that it is necessary to scrap the positions of the Permanent Secretaries?

SCA: I think it is absolutely essential for Hong Kong to retain the positions of Permanent Secretaries and the entire civil service structure. This apolitical, professional and meritocratic civil service structure has served Hong Kong very well for decades. One of the very important principles of putting forward a political appointment system is precisely to preserve this permanent civil service structure for the long term.

In overseas jurisdictions like the United Kingdom and Canada, every minister has two lots of people working under him, the permanent civil service structure on the one hand and a small political office on the other. This enables the political minister to put together very rational and objective policy analysis and combine that with political assessment and judgment. This is a formula which has proven to be of use and of practicality in overseas jurisdictions.

I believe to some extent we have also implemented such a way of doing things in the last four years ever since we put together a system of political appointments for Policy Secretaries of the Government. And I also believe that in enhancing, in furthering the development of the political appointment system, we will enrich such a way of doing things.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Saturday, July 29, 2006