Hong Kong civil servants who exhibit “excellence” will be rewarded with the launch of the “Chief Executive’s Award for Exemplary Performance,” the city’s leader John Lee announced in his inaugural Policy Address on Wednesday.

However, under new reforms to “strengthen the [civil service] reward and punishment system”, those whose performance “remains persistently sub-standard despite supervision and assistance” will be fired in a “timely manner” Lee said.

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Chief Executive John Lee delivers the 2022 Policy Address on October 19, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The award is expected to be implemented in the second quarter of 2023 and will be handed out every three to six months, which is more frequent than the existing award schemes for civil servants.

Civil servants who are chosen for the award will be praised publicly, government sources told HKFP. They said the award will not include concrete rewards, such cash prize or additional annual leaves.

Meanwhile, the code of service for government employees will be updated to make sure they have a “strong awareness” of the importance of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development. “They should… put the principle of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’ into practice,” Lee added.

Delivering his first policy address in the Legislative Council on Wednesday morning, Lee said the civil service was the “backbone of Government” and key for delivering results.

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

The Civil Service Code, which was launched in 2009 and outlines the standards of conduct and core values of civil servants will be revamped, the chief executive said. Government employees must be dedicated to their duties, be people-oriented, embrace team work and be ready to take up commitment and responsibilities.

“They should… put the principle of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’ into practice,” he added.

Civil servants will be provided with training to deepen their understanding of One Country, Two System, contemporary China and global affairs.

In addition, Lee said the government would launch the “Chief Executive’s Award for Exemplary Performance” in the coming year to recognise “meritorious and exemplary teams or individuals” on a regular basis. Staff members with good potential and outstanding performance will be provided with better training and promotion opportunities, while those who consistently underperform will be fired.

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Central Government Offices. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In August, the government vowed to take “more resolute” action against civil servant misconduct and impose punishment “expeditiously,” after 51 personnel were removed from public service over the past financial year.

Formal disciplinary action for serious misconduct or criminal conviction was taken against a total of 1,124 civil servants between April 1, 2017, and March 31 this year, a Civil Service Bureau document revealed. Among those penalised, more than 150 were removed from public service.

Emergency response capability

Personnel from various departments will be called upon to “cope with major incidents that require deployment of considerable manpower,” Lee said, adding that regular drills would be conducted. No details as to what types of “incidents” would be prepared for were provided

According to government sources, government departments are set to finish formulating a list of personnel who could be deployed under the enhanced mobilisation protocol. More more than 10,000 civil servants are expected to join the roster.

It remains unclear what circumstances may trigger the government-wide mobilisation, or which officials will have the power to activate the protocol.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.