Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip has said that Hong Kong civil servants have “dual identities” and must be loyal to both the SAR and China, adding that government workers must not consider issues from a “localist perspective” only.
At a round-table meeting hosted by the pro-Beijing DAB party on Sunday, Nip said that – under One Country, Two Systems – the city’s civil servants also served the Chinese government.
“When carrying out their duties, or when thinking about some issues, we need to consider these dual identities,” Nip said.
The head of the Civil Service Bureau added that some people deem political neutrality – listed as a core value in the Civil Service Code – means “supporting neither side.” But Nip said backing government policies is a “reasonable” move and an obligation for civil servants.
Speaking on RTHK programme Millennium on Monday, Nip clarified that his remarks were not new, and they were something that “goes without saying.” He said he has observed that Hong Kong society had focused on the “Two Systems” but neglected the “One Country,” and therefore raised such comments as a “reminder.”
“When we are considering some issues, we cannot simply think from a localist perspective – to think about nothing else but the SAR, or even have a hostile attitude towards the mainland,” Nip said.
He added civil servants face more restrictions on their freedom of expression than other citizens. Their comments and behaviour have to fit their roles, to avoid being seen as opposing government policies, he said.
I serve ‘Hong Kong citizens’
Nip’s comments on Monday came after multiple unions raised concerns over his remarks. Leung Chau-ting, CEO of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, slammed Nip’s comments as “politicising” the civil service, adding that he had never heard of such views in the past.
“I only know my employer is the Hong Kong government and I come in to serve Hong Kong citizens. We do what we are told to do, as long as it is not too unduly,” Leung said on RTHK on Monday.
The Union for New Civil Servants said it was “shocked” by Nip’s remarks, saying relevant articles in the Basic Law had no mention of “dual identities.”
“On which legal document is the comment based? Does the comment clash with the Basic Law? If civil servants have dual identities, which should they prioritise if there are conflicting considerations?” the union asked in a post on Facebook on Sunday.
Article 99 of the city’s mini-constitution stipulates that public servants “must be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”