Hong Kong’s civil service will require all workers hired since the national security law came into effect to pledge loyalty to the city and anyone who refuses will be sacked, a top official has said.
The new policy, which will be introduced on Monday, will be extended in phases to cover all 180,000 government workers, according to Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen. But one union for government workers warned that some staff might have difficulty knowing when their opinions might cross the line.
The loyalty drive comes after members of the civil service took part in social unrest that erupted last year in response to an aborted extradition bill, prompting Beijing to call for greater national education among the ranks.
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“To the new joiners in the government, we will issue a notice next Monday,” Nip told a radio programme on Saturday. “Civil servants who started their jobs on July 1 or later will have to sign such a declaration.”
Anyone who failed to meet the criteria would be fired, he said.
Under the national security law that took effect on June 30, residents who stand for election or assume public office must confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [HKSAR]. The requirement is part of the broader effort by Beijing to target secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
The policy will be expanded to include workers still serving their probation period, and later all civil servants. If staff hired before July 1 refused to declare their loyalty, management would try to understand why, but the move would become a factor in deciding promotions and other career development, according to the minister.
“Embracing the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to HKSAR is just a basic requirement,” Nip said, adding breaching the oath would be a serious matter.
“If you talk about a person who doesn’t uphold the Basic Law or pledge allegiance to the HKSAR, does that mean [that person] doesn’t support the principle of ‘one country, two systems?” he said, referring to the policy that guarantees the city a high degree of autonomy from mainland China. “Or there is a disagreement over Hong Kong being part of China?
The policy is the latest formalisation of a long-running crackdown on anti-government supporters in the civil service ranks. Nip told the Legislative Council in July staff under his command would not be allowed to join anti-government protests under new requirements. In a letter delivered to workers on September 30, the minister revealed 46 civil servants had been suspended after they were arrested or prosecuted over taking part in illegal public events.
Lower-ranked workers could be required to sign the declaration, while more senior staff such as permanent secretaries and department heads might have to take the oath, Nip said.
If civil servants acted against their oath and broke the law, they would be handled by the courts, the minister warned. The most serious case might involve a violation of the national security law, and anyone convicted would be removed from their position as required.
“If their acts or speech breach the civil service code and other regulations, then they will be handled in accordance with our disciplinary mechanism. The serious cases will involve dismissal,” he said.
Civil servants could express their views in the planning stages of public policies, but when the government had already made a decision on the way forward, staff had a responsibility to implement the measures.
The head of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions said new staff would not have a choice but to get in line. Leung Chau-ting suspected, however, that most workers who joined the government would take the pledge into account.
Leung said his focus was on existing staff worried about crossing a potential red line.
“When you introduce something that hurts the interests of civil servants, we [unions] will definitely fight it. When we do, does that mean we violate the rule?” he said, adding officials should clearly explain the boundaries.
This article Loyalty pledge required for Hong Kong civil servants who started after national security law adopted first appeared on South China Morning Post