Plans to expand the number of government policy bureaux from 13 to 15 have been announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam during the city’s first “patriots-only” Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting on Wednesday.

Lam made eight suggestions regarding government restructuring and said that nine of the 15 bureaux will be led by the chief secretary, while the remaining six will be managed by the financial secretary.

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam entering the Legislative Council Chamber on January 12, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The chief executive, whose current term ends this year, said that the government aimed to collect suggestions from lawmakers and hand them to the chief executive-elect after the small-circle election in March.

Gov’t restructuring plans

  1. Adding a new Cultural, Sports and Tourism Bureau.
  2. Splitting the Transport and Housing Bureau into two separate bureaux.
  3. One of the bureau split from the Transport and Housing Bureau will be renamed as the Transport and Logistics Bureau.
  4. Restructuring the Food and Health Bureau as the Health Bureau.
  5. Restructuring the Home Affairs Bureau as the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau.
  6. The Innovation and Technology Bureau will become the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau.
  7. The Environment Bureau will become the Environment and Ecology Bureau.
  8. Integrating and straightening out the division of policy and relevant work.

Lam said that her administration would “fully cooperate” and submit a restructuring plan “deemed appropriate by the Chief Executive-elect.”

“We need to complete all relevant approval procedures before early June this year, allowing the chief executive-elect enough time to complete the constitutional procedure of appointing key officials, and ensuring the new government structure can begin operations on July 1 this year,” Lam said.

Absent lawmakers and officials

Some top government officials and lawmakers were absent from the meeting, including Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui and DAB Legislative Councillor Elizabeth Quat, who are currently undergoing quarantine after attending a birthday party for a Chinese official.

Lawmakers in quarantine dial in to the first “patriots only” Legislative Council meeting on January 12, 2022. Photo: Eunice Yung, via Facebook.

Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui is still under compulsory quarantine at Penny’s Bay, while other top government officials who attended the party were ordered by Lam to stay at home. The LegCo president also suggested that 20 lawmakers present at the party remained at home.

‘Pretty heavy’ work

Apart from restructuring government bureaux, the chief executive also said that she planned to “foster an executive-legislature relationship” and “take forward the development of the Northern Metropolis.”

“Over the years, those who are anti-China and who have attempted to destabilise Hong Kong had tried to politicise council businesses and made it difficult for the LegCo to fully perform its functions in fostering mutual co-operation with the executive authorities while exercising checks and balances, and supporting the executive-led approach in developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood,” said Lam.

“Members of the current-term LegCo have come from different backgrounds, trades or professions which reflect their broad representation and political inclusiveness.”

The 90 lawmakers were elected in Hong Kong’s first LegCo election, which produced one self-proclaimed non-pro-establishment legislator and a record-low voter turnout, following a sweeping overhaul to the city’s electoral system to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong.

John Lee
Chief Secretary John Lee attending the first “patriots-only” Legislative Council meeting on January 12, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates.

Lam said that Chief Secretary John Lee was in the process of organising the legislative programme for the year, and that the 40 suggestions she made in the 2021 Policy Address, including the legislation of Article 23, will be tabled in LegCo this year.

“It seems that this year’s legislative work will be pretty heavy,” said Lam.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.