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CS's Q & A session


Following is the transcript of the question-and-answer session by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, at the luncheon meeting of the Lions Clubs International District 303 Hong Kong and Macau at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel today (March 18):

Question: Honourable Donald Tsang, thank you for giving us a very thoughtful insight into what will happen to our civil service. Now we know that something important will happen to the very senior level of the civil service. Could you say a little more about what happen to the serving principal civil servants and regarding the appointment of the new principal civil servants, can you say a little bit more about how they will be appointed? How will they be selected? Thank you.

Mr Tsang: Well, the details of the accountability system are still being worked out. But the future principal officials will not be civil servants. They will be nominated by the Chief Executive and appointed by the Central People's Government, and they will be the principal officials of Hong Kong responsible for policy creation. Civil servants will remain civil servants as they are. In other words, helping the Chief Executive and the future principal officials in devolving and involving policies, defending those policies and making the best of these talents and so on. The actual selection process and numbers and so on, as I mentioned, are still being worked out. But I do believe that the system that evolves will certainly be more accountable, and will be more reflective of community needs and priorities. These are the people whose mission in life, particularly during the limited term of office of five years, will concentrate on doing what they believe the community requires. So it will be much more focused on the political agenda. It will be much more hard work during the course along in the clear agenda. I think it would also be a conducive, a more cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislative under this arrangement.

Question: The Honourable Mr Tsang, may I ask, or may I raise a very sensitive question to you? How about the salary cut for the civil servants. How do you feel?

Mr Tsang: Well, all I can say is civil servants are just any other members of the community. I will just ask you how do you feel about salary cut if it happens to you? So, you'll feel exactly the same way. But, civil servants are disciplined. They know, when in economically good times, when people are getting about 16 months' salary a year or 18 months' in certain cases, they cannot expect to have that because they are civil servants. But on the other hand, when things are really tough, they know that they would be treated fairly, and there are standard mechanisms in the civil service for doing this. In other words, there will be surveys done in the market, and once a survey is done, it would then be submitted to a committee when we would be able to discuss it. If there were any reduction in the public, reduction in salary in the private sector, it will be reflected in the surveys, and then it will be the starting point for discussion.

I think when you hear, when civil servants talk, other than, of course, some members of the union, you must forgive them because they are union members. But other than union members, most of whom are rational people, just like you and me, and most other people in this chamber today. They will be looking at this rationally. They share the pain of the community. They share the anguish of everybody else. If there are some needs for people to make sacrifice. They will offer the sacrifice. But, they also have to raise their families, look after their kids, and look after their own future. The important thing is we do it according to established practice. I think civil servants will react accordingly. I'm sure whatever decision the government makes in this, it will be done fairly, reasonably and legally.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript)

End/Monday, March 18, 2002


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