A former top adviser to the government has said young people with pro-establishment viewpoints would “naturally be more suitable” to join Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s initiative to attract them into government.

Last week, the government published job advertisements to attract 30 young people to join the upcoming Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit – a reformed version of the existing Central Policy Unit. The wages are between HK$30,000 and HK$95,000 per month depending on experience and qualifications.

Lau Sai-leung, former full-time member of the Central Policy Unit, said the new positions do not require a lot of experience and the wages are almost double the market price for similar jobs outside the government.

Lau Sai-leung.

Lau, the top adviser for the Donald Tsang administration, said the government may have already asked suitable candidates to apply.

“I observed that pro-establishment young people do not have strong political beliefs… They switch their positions quickly. These characteristics are naturally more suitable [for the positions],” he said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday. “On many occasions, they will have to put away their beliefs to perform the role of policy research and coordination. People with strong beliefs will not be happy in this job.”

“I don’t have too many expectations. In fact, I think this is a political project in response to the central government’s demand – to include more young people, to curb their calls for separatism, and to increase communication with young people.”

He said young people can apply for the positions to gain benefits, experience, and connections.

“I was in the Central Policy Unit for six years. After I left, I realised the most important thing is that I got to know high-level civil servants, administrative officers. You can also see government documents and its decision-making process,” he said.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Inmedia.

Some young scholars have publicly said they will not join the government, as they may have to “whitewash” policies. Lau said it depended on the expectations they have of their roles.

“If I were a policy advocate, I would stay in the community to form a pressure group, or join as a member of a political party, or form a civic think tank – do not join the establishment. Because your role in advocacy will change after you join the establishment,” he said.

He said if young people wished to learn more about the policy-making process, they should not bring their political ideals into the government and attempt to change its policies.

“If you want to advocate for policies, you should run for the Legislative Council – do not be a cabinet aide, do not focus on research, be a politician. Fight against Carrie Lam at the House Committee, the Finance Committee, or a Q&A session, then the whole of Hong Kong can hear your political ideals,” he said.

The government will also issue advertisements on Tuesday to attract young people to join five other government consultation bodies.

Lau said it was a step in the right direction, compared to the past, but added that the committees to opened up will likely be those surrounding social services, rather than more influential ones: “It is like returning to the model of political absorption in the 1970s.”

Kris Cheng

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.