|LCQ5: Appointment of Under Secretaries and Political Assistants
Following is a question by the Hon Martin Lee and an oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 4):
Recently, the Chief Executive appointed the first batch of eight Under Secretaries at the rank of Deputy Director of Bureau and nine Political Assistants to Directors of Bureaux. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the monthly salary and fringe benefits of each Under Secretary and Political Assistant, and whether there are any differences among the fringe benefits of various Under Secretaries;
(b) which of these Under Secretaries and Political Assistants are holding foreign passports; given that Article 61 of the Basic Law provides that the principal officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) shall be Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the Region with no right of abode in any foreign country, whether the authorities have assessed if it is a breach of this provision for an Under Secretary holding a foreign passport to act as a principal official at the rank of Director of Bureau; and
(c) given that Article 15 of the Basic Law provides that the principal officials shall be appointed by the Central People's Government (CPG), whether the authorities have assessed if the CPG's appointment is required before these Under Secretaries act as principal officials at the rank of Director of Bureau in the future; if the assessment result is that this is not required, of the rationale for that?
(a) As set out in the "Report on Further Development of the Political Appointment System" (the Report) issued by the Government in October 2007, the level of remuneration for Deputy Directors of Bureau is pitched at a range equivalent to 65 per cent to 75 per cent of the remuneration for a Director of Bureau (comprising three pay points), and the level of remuneration for Political Assistants is pitched at a range equivalent to 35 per cent to 55 per cent of the remuneration for a Director of Bureau (comprising five pay points).
So far, the Government has appointed eight Deputy Directors of Bureau and nine Political Assistants. The following two tables set out the number of officials at the relevant pay points:
Deputy Director of Bureau
In addition to cash remuneration, the Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants are also eligible for annual leave of 22 days per annum (subject to a maximum accumulation limit of 22 days), medical and dental benefits and Mandatory Provident Fund contribution by the Government.
Since Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants are remunerated on the basis of a total cash package, there are no housing allowance, no passage allowance and no gratuity benefits for them.
The above remuneration packages were approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in December 2007.
(b) The Report issued by the Government in October 2007 has set out that, in line with the Basic Law, Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants must be permanent residents of the HKSAR. All the newly appointed Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants have met this requirement.
As regards the additional requirements under the Basic Law (Article 61) for Principal Officials that they shall be Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign country and have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 15 years, such requirements are not applicable to Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants since they are not Principal Officials.
In fact, in the Report issued in October 2007, the Government has made clear that Deputy Directors of Bureau are not Principal Officials and that there is no need for them to be appointed by the CPG. It can be seen from the above that they are not subject to the requirement of having no right of abode in any foreign country, as in the case of Principal Officials. The position of the Government has been clear.
According to the Draft Basic Law for Solicitation of Opinions in 1988, "only Chinese nationals among permanent residents of the Region can fill the following posts: the Secretary and Deputy Secretaries of Departments, Directors of Bureaus, Commissioner Against Corruption, Director of Audit, Deputy Directors for Security and Civil Service, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of External Affairs, Commissioner of Immigration and Inspector General of Customs and Excise".
It can be seen from the above that, during the drafting process of the Basic Law, consideration was once made on requiring the “Deputy Directors for Security and for Civil Service” to be subject to the same requirements applicable to the Principal Officials. However, in the Basic Law promulgated in 1990, the references to the above "Deputy Director" posts were taken out from the relevant provision. Therefore, the legislative intention of the Basic Law is clear, that is, only Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Departments, Directors of Bureaux, and a number of other department heads, are required to be filled by Chinese citizens among permanent residents of the Region with no right of abode in any foreign country.
Among those newly appointed, the eight Deputy Directors of Bureau have made public separately on whether they have right of abode in any foreign country. Among these eight, five have indicated in the affirmative.
As regards the Political Assistants, we understand that some of them have made public on whether they have right of abode in any foreign country.
We respect the personal decisions of Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants on whether to disclose and how to handle any right of abode in foreign countries they may have.
(c) Whilst Deputy Directors of Bureau may act in the positions of Directors of Bureau during the latter's absence, they are still not "Principal Officials", and the acting arrangement is only an administrative measure. Such an arrangement does not contravene the Basic Law.
As a matter of fact, the principle involved can be illustrated by the following two types of occasions where acting arrangement has been made. Between 1997 and 2002, ie prior to the implementation of the Political Appointment System, the deputies to the Directors of Bureau could act in the latter's position. Similarly, for Principal Official positions which are held by civil servants since the handover (ie Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Director of Audit, Commissioner of Police, Director of Immigration and Commissioner of Customs and Excise), there is no need for their deputies to be appointed by the CPG, nor is there any requirement on their right of abode, as in the case of Principal Officials. These deputies also have the opportunity to act in the positions of the Principal Officials concerned during the latter's absence.
The above arrangements do not contravene the Basic Law.
Ends/Wednesday, June 4, 2008