Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she picks officials on the basis of talent and not political stance, when asked about the potential appointment of a pro-Beijing deputy education chief.

Choi Yuk-lin, of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW), is rumoured to be a candidate for the undersecretary for education position.

Meeting reporters over tea on Thursday, Lam was asked about an online petition which attracted more than 2,300 education professionals. It voiced opposition to Choi’s potential appointment. But Lam said the number of signatures was “very few.”

carrie lam legco
Carrie Lam at the legislature. Photo: LegCo.

Choi is the principal of the Fukien Secondary School (Siu Sai Wan), which is widely considered to be a pro-Beijing school.

“What is so controversial about principal Choi? Just because she is from a HKFEW background,” Lam said, according to Apple Daily. She added that the pro-democracy Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) also has a clear political stance.

“I find it strange that nowadays some people still say some schools are leftist schools,” she said.

Lam said Wong Kwan-yu, president of the HKFEW, did not disagree with Choi being the undersecretary. Lam added that the Federation represents a part of the education sector, reported Ming Pao.

Lam denied the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s official body in Hong Kong, was responsible for asking her to appoint Choi.

She said she would not consider political stance in making her appointments. “[Financial secretary] Paul Chan is also controversial,” she said.

Choi Yuk-lin
Choi Yuk-lin.

Citing the new labour secretary as an example, she said Law Chi-kwong was from the Democratic Party, but he was still appointed.

Lam also said she hoped the Education Bureau would have an official from the education sector, as Education Secretary Kevin Yeung is not an education professional. But she insisted she would not reveal her choice of personnel.

Choi lost in the 2016 Legislative Council education sector election to incumbent lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen of the HKPTU.

During a visit to Hong Kong last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Hong Kong should step up the patriotic education of young people, and increase awareness of the Chinese Constitution and the Basic Law among civil servants and young people.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.