Chief Executive John Lee revealed that he will be setting up a Chief Executive Policy Unit during his first ever question and answer session at the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday. He said the “macroscopic” unit will be accountable to both the central government and the Hong Kong government.
“As the Chief Executive, I am accountable to the Central People’s Government, then secondly the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government…I need to have a national vision. I need to take care of Hong Kong’s overall interest. And in the same way, I need to review the international situation.”
Lee – who had a highlighted copy of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s Hong Kong speech in front of him – did not say who will lead the unit, or give details of the timeline of the establishment.
HKFP has reached out to the Chief Executive’s Office.
The unit will be similar to the Central Policy Unit in previous administrations, which was core for strategic development, studying public opinion and advising the government on policy drafting. The unit was transformed into the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit under the governance of Lee’s predecessor Carrie Lam.
Monthly meeting with lawmakers
Lee also proposed conducting a monthly meeting with lawmakers to foster a good relationship between the executive and legislative branches. On Tuesday, it was revealed that he had sought to restrict Wednesday’s question topics to seven areas.
A secretary or a deputy secretary of department, together with five to six bureau heads or relevant officials, will interact with lawmakers at each meeting, which will be held in the ante chamber of the LegCo complex.
Lee said he will lead the first session. In attendance will be the three secretaries, three deputy secretaries and the director of the Chief Executive’s Office. The newly-inaugurated leader added that LegCo President Andrew Leung has given positive feedback on the idea, and further plans will be made.
Lee pointed to his results-oriented governance principle, saying that he will set up four working groups to tackle various issues, including inter-generational poverty, land and housing supply, public housing projects and district affairs.
The task group focusing on solving inter-generational poverty will be led by Chief Secretary Chan Kwok-ki. Meeting the press after the Q&A session, Chan said the group will roll out a one-year programme to pair up underprivileged junior secondary school students with a mentor, who will share their life experience, help teenagers shape correct values and plan for their future.
Students will also receive a form of financial aid, though they will not be able to get their hands on cash personally.
“If the student spends it on a mobile phone, that’s not ideal. Our programme is unique in a sense that the subsidy will be given to the mentor. The mentor will decide how to use the money according to the student’s needs. For example, the mentor can spend the money on arranging training or classes for the student if he sees fit,” Chan said.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan will lead the land and housing supply task force. He said he will oversee not only the supply of public housing, but also private housing, as well as transport infrastructure.
“We will be publishing the forecast of the land supply in the coming decade to enhance transparency and also enhance the oversight by the public of the work of the government in this respect,” the finance chief said.
Chan’s deputy Michael Wong will focus more on public housing projects. He said he will adhere to the chief executive’s request to submit a concrete proposal within 100 days on boosting the supply of government housing.
The fourth group on district affairs will be chaired by Deputy Chief Secretary Cheuk Wing-hing. His group will work on issues such as improving public hygiene and the cityscape.
‘Tell the Hong Kong story well’
During the one-and-a-half hour Q&A session, the chief executive and a number of pro-establishment lawmakers referenced Xi’s recent speech on July 1 multiple times, including the need to accurately implement the One Country Two Systems principle.
Election Committee lawmaker Chan Siu-hung said that, despite One Country Two Systems being proven to be working well, foreign countries continue to badmouth Hong Kong. He asked Lee what his plan was to “tell the Hong Kong and China story well.”
Lee said it is indeed an important task for the government.
“In the world, even though [Hong Kong] is a gentleman, there are a lot of villains,” Lee said, adding “sometimes we need to be blunt and explicit” in showcasing the city’s achievement. He also said education is a key part to cultivate patriotism and a sense of belonging, so that Hongkongers will be proud of their identity.
According to the China Media Project, Xi coined the phrase “telling China’s story well” in 2013 to instruct party, and quasi-private, actors to strengthen and innovate external propaganda.
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