Education secretary Kevin Yeung has said he will consider ability, political stance and background in appointing his deputy.
Choi Yuk-lin, of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW), is rumoured to be a candidate for the position of undersecretary for education.
Yeung and Choi appeared at the same event promoting reading at the Hong Kong Book Fair on Thursday. They spoke separately after the event.
Yeung said the government was still considering candidates and would not comment on individuals.
Choi is the principal of the Fukien Secondary School (Siu Sai Wan), which is widely considered to be a pro-Beijing school. She lost the education sector seat during the 2016 Legislative Council election to incumbent pro-democracy lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen.
Yeung was asked if it would be inappropriate or not politically ideal to appoint someone with a political background as undersecretary.
In response, he said: “When we pick politically-appointed officials or the political team, we will consider their ability and the work they can do in that position. Of course, their political stance and political background will be one of the many factors. But we will consider everything as a whole.”
The new administration had stated that national education continues to be taught in schools, though the plan for a separate subject was scrapped.
A petition opposing Choi’s rumoured appointment has been signed by more than 17,000 people, including about 5,900 education professionals.
Choi was repeatedly asked on Thursday whether she will accept the position if she is appointed.
“I believe that we serve our primary and secondary school students, serve Hong Kong’s education, in every position,” she said. “I believe no matter who [takes the position], they have to take care of students’ needs, take care of students’ problems.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s new HK$3.6 billion education funding proposal was passed on Wednesday by the Legislative Council despite tensions between the pro-democracy camp and the government.
Choi was also asked whether it will be more difficult for the government to pass education-related funding if she becomes undersecretary for education.
“Hong Kong is a diverse society,” she responded. “It is good that our students nowadays can think from different perspectives.”