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LCQ17: Government officials publishing articles using pen-names

     Following is a question by the Hon James Tien and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 19):


     It has been reported that concealing his official capacity, the Information Co-ordinator recently published an article in a newspaper in a pen-name, in which he criticised certain persons and political parties whose stances were different from that of the Government. In response to media enquiries, the Office of the Chief Executive indicated that in interpreting and explaining government policies, officials would expound in their official capacity. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether any government officials (including the Chief Executive, Politically Appointed Officials and civil servants) or departments have published articles in newspapers or magazines in pen-names in the past three years; if so, provide the details in the table below; if it will not provide such information, of the reasons for that;

                                Name of
                                newspaper/   Article
Date   Post title   Pen-name    magazine     title
----   ----------   --------    ----------   -------

(2) whether it has assessed the implications of government officials or departments publishing articles in pen-names; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether there is currently any code governing the publication of articles in newspapers or magazines by officials or departments in pen-names; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will formulate such a code;

(4) under what circumstances government officials are not required to disclose their official capacity when publishing articles in newspapers or magazines; and

(5) why the Office of the Chief Executive did not reply to the media directly as to whether the Information Co-ordinator had actually published the aforesaid article?



     According to the Civil Service Code, civil servants shall ensure that no actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest shall arise between their official duties and private interests. They shall ensure that the views they express will not compromise their capacity to fulfil their official duties professionally, effectively and impartially. They shall use information gained by virtue of their official position for authorised purposes only. They shall not disclose documents, information or knowledge received in confidence from others in the course of their duties or by virtue of their official position. Furthermore, civil servants who wish to publish articles in newspapers or magazines in their private capacity of which remuneration will be provided must also obtain prior permission from their heads of department for undertaking paid outside work in accordance with the relevant Civil Service Regulations and departmental guidelines.

     With regard to Politically Appointed Officials (PAOs), they shall devote the whole of their time and attention to the discharge of their duties as PAOs of the Government, and shall use their best endeavours to promote the interests of the Government. PAOs' work includes liaising and communicating with the Legislative Council, political parties and groups, the media as well as various sectors of the community and district personalities in various ways (including publishing articles) to explain policies and canvass support. PAOs speak in their official capacities during such liaisons and communications.

     We do not have any information on Government officials publishing articles in pen-names.

Ends/Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:34


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