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In a transition to the fourth term government and on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the handover, a hefty open recruitment exercise for political talents is being launched by the incoming SAR government. It marks the first effort for the government to nurture new political blood openly under the principle of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong”. The incoming Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is building a political talent pool for Hong Kong as the city is embarking on the road to universal suffrage in 2017.
More significantly, it is the first time the incoming administration has picked its political team in an open, fair and meticulous manner, to secure its legitimacy and public confidence. As the outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang confessed last Thursday, the mismatched and dark-roomed selection for his incumbent political aides in 2008 marked the watershed of his decline. The public decried his cronies’ climb up the political ladder. Tsang’s setback in arbitrary political appointment left a negative example for his successor.
Leung wants to dispel charges of cronyism and horse-trading in his political line-up. He wants justice to be seen under broad sunlight. Since last Wednesday, he has led a five-member-strong screening committee in a preliminary selection and rounds of interviews to establish the best picks vigorously, among 1,400 applicants. A five-day interview for 39 aspirants out of 300 contesting 13 posts for undersecretaries, except for the Civil Service Bureau, was conducted. Another round of screening will be conducted to seek the right political aides from a huge backlog of 1,100 applicants in the preceding weeks.
Meanwhile, we are upset by the sidetrack fiasco of political bickering that took place in the opposition camp when this unprecedented recruitment exercise commenced.
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The political climate in Hong Kong has turned unfavorable and negative. We reject any conspiracy theories and intrigues over this open recruitment, reading it as a ploy to silence political squawking. It is far too scare-mongering to interpret this as a move to disarticulate opponents and political rivals with the baits of public office and desirable remuneration. May critics set aside their suspicions and mockery. Cynicism against the recruitment exercise as Leung’s political tactic for his image engineering is misjudged and unfair.
Four Democratic Party members applied for political assistant’s posts, in an attempt to challenge the fairness of the selection process. Their bogus job seeking invoked public anger. The Democratic Party, however, leniently accepted their apologies for their negligence in informing the party.
More dauntingly, a job seeker for undersecretary and Democratic Party founder, Andrew Fung Wai-kong, was denounced as “a traitor” by the Democratic Party leaders. Fung quit the party and fired at its autocratic rule barring party members from seeking political jobs in the government. No less embarrassment was to the Civic Party when its founding member Chua Hoi-wai revealed his application to be undersecretary. One day before the interview, Chua quit the party.
The opposition camp has laid bare its intrigues to stall and hinder the restructuring. These sagas turned them into another farce. Radical lawmakers ridiculed them over dragging their feet over Leung’s restructuring but slicking to the political appointment system by their party job seeker.
People supported Leung’s calling for inclusiveness from the opposition to treat their members aspiring to join the new government. Hong Kong is being held up due to political bickering. With no reflection to political disparity and party feuds, meritocracy prevails in selecting political talents on their credentials, aptitude and dedication, not political affiliation or personal ties.
Under “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong”, only 7 million permanent residents can fill the political posts. There is a small pool of critical mass in public service. Among existing political parties, even the biggest so far only has over 21,000 members since its founding. Hong Kong cannot rely solely on snail-pace party development. With no ruling party and even worse no revolving door under the accountability system, quality aspirants for public office are subsequently scared away. All these imperfections are impediments to our democratic development.