Contract staff not employed on civil service terms will be asked to sign a declaration swearing allegiance to the government, the Civil Service Bureau has announced.

Top officials take oaths of allegiance in December 2020. File Photo: GovHK screenshot.

Temporary, short and long-term contractors whose employment took effect on or after July 1, 2020, will be asked to declare allegiance to the HKSAR and vow to uphold the Basic Law, the bureau’s spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. They will be given three weeks to return the signed declaration, a requirement stipulated by the national security law.

“The requirement for non-civil service staff of the Government to sign the declaration is an open acknowledgement of the acceptance and a genuine manifestation of the responsibilities of and expectations on non-civil service staff of the Government,” the statement read.

Civil Servants going to work at the Central Government Offices. File photo: GovHK.

The measure may include Foreign Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) at Hong Kong government schools, medics at the Department of Health, or seasonal lifeguards at government beaches and pools who are not on civil service payroll.

Workers who breached their declarations would face “appropriate disciplinary action(s)” for misconduct taken in accordance with their contract terms, the spokesperson said.

The statement does not indicate whether part-time contractors would also be subject to the same requirement.

“Difficulties ahead”

The government employed over 11,000 contract workers as of June last year, according to a Civil Service Bureau document submitted to the legislature. The Hong Kong Postal Service tops the list among all departments, with 1,590 workers on contract, while the Education Bureau had 1,292.

Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions spokesperson Leung Chau-ting estimated the number to be closer to 20,000 due to the government’s hiring spree for short-term workers to support its Covid-19 anti-epidemic efforts.

Central Government Offices. Photo: GovHK.

“I think it was inevitable that long-term contractors would be asked to declare allegiance, “Leung told HKFP, referring to those who typically have their contracts renewed every year. “I think it’s going to hinder those looking for temporary employment,” Leung said, referring to temporary workers whose contracts may span from three to six months.

The government may now find it more difficult to hire short term contractors quickly to relieve temporary demands for services, as job seekers may become hesitant to apply due to worries that breaching the declaration might constitute a criminal offence in the future, Leung said.

“These people won’t have to handle anything sensitive, they are only grassroots workers. I don’t think it is necessary to require their declaration of allegiance.”

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.