The Hong Kong government has said that civil servants must serve the chief executive and the government with total loyalty, adding that they will follow up on any violations ahead of a civil servant protest on Friday night.

A rally is set to take place at Chater Garden in Central at 7pm under the theme “civil servants march with citizens.” A general strike is also looming next Monday, which some civil servants have anonymously committed to joining.

In a statement, the government said civil servants must maintain political neutrality regardless of their personal thoughts on recent events. It said it has been listening to their views through various established internal channels.

各位新聞傳媒朋友:集會已獲批不反對通知書,歡迎各位屆時蒞臨採訪。歡迎各界人士參與《公僕仝人,與民同行》集會日期:2019年8月2日(星期五)時間:晚上7時至9時 地點:中環遮打花園#和理非集會#請參加支持#五大訴求#分享分享分享#張圖大家可能睇到厭

Posted by DigDeep on Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The government said any acts to undermine the principle of political neutrality of the civil service are totally unacceptable, and it could give an incorrect impression that civil servants are unable to discharge their duties in an impartial manner.

“These acts will also create division and conflicts within the Government, and seriously affect the Government’s effective operation and implementation of policies and the delivery of services to the public,” it said. “In fact, it is difficult to determine the real identity of those who issued anonymous open statements.”

“According to the Civil Service Code, civil servants shall uphold the principle of political neutrality, meaning that civil servants shall serve the Chief Executive and the Government of the day with total loyalty and to the best of their ability, no matter what their own political beliefs are. The Government will, in accordance with the established mechanism, seriously follow up on any violations of regulations by civil servants.”

A letter with similar content was also sent to civil servants from Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law.

Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong.
Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong.

However, a page on conduct on the Civil Service Bureau’s website said that civil servants enjoy civil and political rights, and there is no objection to individual civil servants participating in political activities, if they do not give rise to any conflict of interest with their official duties, except for directorate officers, Administrative Officers, Information Officers, and disciplined officers of the Police Force.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung confirmed this view on Friday, saying that it is not problematic for civil servants to appear at events in the capacity of a resident, when they are off-duty.

“But they cannot do something that is not in line with the view of the government in the capacity of a civil servant. It may give the outside world a misconception that civil servants have different views and are acting against the government,” he said.

Matthew Cheung
Matthew Cheung. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

A medical and healthcare sector rally will also take place at 6pm on Friday at Edinburgh Place, Central.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said she was confident that medical staff will stand by their roles and put patients’ interests first. She said she hoped people will use peaceful and rational means to express their opinions during this difficult time.

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.