All civil servants in Hong Kong are to declare allegiance to the city in one go, Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip announced on Thursday. He said that pledging loyalty was a “basic requirement” for government employees.

At a press conference a day after the 2020 policy address was unveiled, Nip said it was unnecessary to conduct the oath-taking in phases as previously suggested. All serving government staffers will either take an oath or sign a declaration together – swearing allegiance to the HKSAR, and pledging to uphold the Basic Law.

Patrick Nip Policy Address 2020
Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip (middle) meets the press on November 26, 2020. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The civil service minister revealed that 2,980 new recruits who joined the government on or after July 1 have already taken the loyalty pledge following an official notice last month.

“Upholding [the Basic Law] and swearing allegiance are a basic responsibility and requirement. A confirmation of such a basic requirement is a fundamental requisite for civil servants,” he said.

Nip said that the bureau will consult the Department of Justice and civil service groups to finalise what follow-up action may be taken if a government staffer declines to declare allegiance. He said a refusal to take the oath will at least affect the individual’s promotion prospects.

“It would make people question why they cannot accept pledging allegiance to the HKSAR,” he said.

Carrie Lam 2020 Policy Address
Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

Asked whether a breach of the oath will come with legal consequences, Nip said any violation would involve words and actions that are deemed as breaching the law or internal regulations. If the civil servant involved is convicted of breaking the national security law, their duties will be terminated.

National security

In Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s fourth policy address, the Hong Kong leader said: “Pursuant to Article 99 of the Basic Law, civil servants must dedicate themselves to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR government.”

On June 30, Beijing imposed a legislation on Hong Kong which bans secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts – broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure.

National security law
Photo: GovHK.

The sweeping legislation stipulates that any Hong Kong resident who runs in an election or assumes public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the special administrative region.

China’s highest legislative body passed a decision earlier this month, saying that people who promote or support Hong Kong independence, appeal to foreign governments to “interfere,” refuse to accept China’s rule over the city or endanger national security would be deemed as breaching the allegiance pledge.

Beijing’s decision gave the Hong Kong authorities the power to unseat four “unpatriotic” democrats from the Legislative Council, triggering a mass resignation of pro-democracy lawmakers. The move left the legislature with no effective opposition.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.