II. Good Governance
7. I solemnly pledged in my first Policy Address that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and myself will, with our utmost endeavours, implement the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, uphold the Basic Law and safeguard the rule of law; and good governance is the cornerstone for discharging the above constitutional responsibilities. The HKSAR, being an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, is directly under the Central People’s Government and enjoys a high degree of autonomy. With the support of the Motherland in the past 21 years and an international vision, Hong Kong has maintained its unique strengths which are protected by the Basic Law, including the rule of law, executive power, legislative power, independent judicial power including that of final adjudication, human rights and freedom, etc. To ensure the robustness of the “One Country, Two Systems”, the HKSAR must uphold the “One Country” principle and handle the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR correctly.
Relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR
8. The Chief Executive is responsible to both the HKSAR and the Central Government. Under this “dual responsibility”, the Chief Executive is required to comprehensively, accurately and firmly implement the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, uphold the Basic Law, defend the rule of law and promote the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR. In face of the complex situations and new conflicts emerged in the Hong Kong society in recent years, the HKSAR Government and I will not tolerate any acts that advocate Hong Kong’s independence and threatens the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests. We will fearlessly take actions against such acts according to the law in order to safeguard the interests of the country and Hong Kong. To nip the problem in the bud, we have also reinforced the understanding of all sectors of the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security and fostered an awareness of “One Country” in the community.
9. Meanwhile, with the Central Government’s staunch support for Hong Kong’s integration into the overall national development, we will make the best use of the advantage of “Two Systems” and actively participate in the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative and the development of the Greater Bay Area.
10. The HKSAR Government has signed a number of co-operation agreements with different central ministries and commissions over the past year or so. These include the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Co-operation in the Development of the Bay Area signed with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Macao Special Administrative Region Government, the Arrangement for Advancing Hong Kong’s Full Participation in and Contribution to the Belt & Road Initiative signed with the NDRC, the Agreement between the Mainland and HKSAR on Enhancing the Arrangement for Closer Cultural Relations signed with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as the Arrangement on Enhancing Innovation and Technology Co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong recently signed with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). These co-operation agreements have provided Hong Kong with ample opportunities to participate in national development and enhance the opportunities of its industries and professional services. To put the spirit of these agreements into practice, the bureaux concerned are taking forward specific initiatives that can benefit various sectors.
11. On 15 August this year, I, as a member, attended the first plenary meeting of the leading group for the development of the Greater Bay Area convened by the Vice Premier of the State Council, Mr HAN Zheng. The leading group provides top-tier design to advance the development of the Greater Bay Area and enhance co-ordination of its development. This is the first time that the Chief Executives of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs) have attended a meeting at central leadership level as members, highlighting the importance the Central Government attaches to the role of the two SARs in the Greater Bay Area and its continued support for their integration into the overall national development.
12. The Central Government’s support for the HKSAR is also fully manifested in a host of policy initiatives rolled out in the past year that would facilitate Hong Kong people’s study, work and living in the Mainland, in particular the introduction of the Regulations for Application of Residence Permit for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Residents in August this year, whereby eligible Hong Kong residents can apply for residence permits1 and are entitled to enjoy, in accordance with the law, various rights, public services and convenience at the place of residence.
13. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up of our country. Hong Kong enterprises have been the major source of external investment in Mainland provinces and municipalities and, in recent years, have assisted Mainland enterprises to expand their business overseas. Hong Kong continues to serve the important function of being a platform for our country to attract foreign investment and for Mainland companies to go global. The HKSAR Government will strengthen collaboration with Mainland provinces and municipalities and actively performs its role as a “facilitator” and “promoter”, so as to identify more business and development opportunities for Hong Kong people and enterprises. In May this year, I led a delegation to Chengdu and co-chaired the First Plenary Session of the Hong Kong-Sichuan Co-operation Conference with the Secretary of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee to establish a new high-level co-operation mechanism between Hong Kong and Sichuan. In August, I co-chaired the Hong Kong/Shanghai Co-operation Conference with the Mayor of Shanghai in Hong Kong and signed co-operation agreements on a number of areas. I will conduct the Hong Kong/Beijing Co-operation Conference with the Mayor of Beijing later this month while the Chief Secretary for Administration will co-chair the Hong Kong-Fujian Co-operation Conference with leaders of the Fujian Province in late November.
14. The new style of governance, new roles for the Government and new fiscal philosophy I have adopted for the current-term Government have received wide support from the community, and specific initiatives are being implemented. Among these, I have advocated that the Government should play the roles of “facilitator” and “promotor”, and various bureaux and departments have become more proactive in handling economic and livelihood issues. Part of the efforts have been reflected in the 2018 Policy Address and the over 240 new initiatives in the Policy Agenda.
15. Some may ask whether the Government’s proactiveness will deviate from the market economy upheld by Hong Kong. My answer is “no”; but a city’s competitiveness is like a boat sailing against the current and it must forge ahead in order not to be driven back, and hence the Government has every responsibility to provide policy support and explore business opportunities for enterprises locally and overseas, and to engage in more “government-to-government” interactions.
16. Some may also question whether the Government will, by allocating public resources more robustly to improve people’s livelihood, deviate from the principles of fiscal prudence and keeping expenditure within the limits of revenues, thus embarking on the road to a welfare society. My answer is “no”. With our ample fiscal reserves, it is the Government’s responsibility to use the resources derived from the community for the good of the community, invest for the future, relieve people’s burdens and enable people from different walks of life to share the fruits of our economic growth. In fact, the spirit of self-reliance among Hong Kong people has been impressive. Currently there are about 12 000 unemployment cases under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme, representing only 24% of the peak caseload in September 2003.
17. In respect of playing the role of a “facilitator” more effectively, a major function of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (PICO), which was set up on 1 April this year, is to provide “first-stop and one-stop” consultation and co-ordination services for different sectors. For projects with wider public benefits proposed by civil groups, the PICO will co-ordinate the requirements and views of the relevant departments while maintaining communication with the proponents to facilitate project implementation. In addition, the Efficiency Office, which has been transferred to the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB), will assist bureaux and departments in implementing business facilitation measures. Over 70 related measures have been rolled out last year, and more than 130 new measures will be launched this year to reduce the compliance cost and remove red tape for various industries.
Upholding the Principle of Meritocracy
18. We attach importance to public participation and engagement. I have called upon all policy bureaux to uphold the principle of meritocracy and cast their net wide in scouting for talent, as well as to increase the proportion of female and young members. In the past 12 months, a total of over 3 400 members have been appointed by policy bureaux to various public organisations and advisory committees. At present, female members account for about 33% of all the non-official members appointed by the Government to advisory and statutory bodies, whereas young people account for 9%2. I believe that these appointees drawn from different sectors of the community will enable us to take into account extensive views in the policy formulation process.
Open and Transparent
19. Historical archives not only record the decision-making process, but also preserve the collective memory of society. I would reiterate that the current-term Government attaches importance to the integrity of government records and holds a positive view towards the enactment of an archives law. The Law Reform Commission (LRC) of Hong Kong has completed its study on our existing records management system and the relevant laws of other jurisdictions. Public consultation is expected to commence by the end of this year. The Government will follow up on this after receiving the report from LRC. At the present stage, the Government will continue to enhance its records management work, including formulating a more comprehensive training plan for bureaux and departments, providing more professional training programmes for staff of the Government Records Service, and reviewing the implementation progress of electronic recordkeeping systems, etc.
20. The Code on Access to Information (the Code) manifests the openness and accountability of the Government as it provides an effective framework for the public to access an extensive range of government information. Since the implementation of the Code, the percentage of requests where information is provided has consistently exceeded 95%. LRC formed a sub-committee on access to information earlier to review the current system of public access to government information, with a view to making appropriate recommendations on reforms. After the LRC has submitted its report, the Government will deliberate on the recommendations and consider how to further improve the system of access to information.
Enhancing the Institution
21. Institutional safeguard and accountability are key elements of good governance. When there are major public incidents, the Government must front up and commit itself to solving the problems. In the past year, to address the extensive public concern over a bus accident that resulted in serious casualties and the problematic construction works at the Hung Hom Station Extension of the MTR Shatin to Central Link Project, I promptly set up independent inquiry committees to carry out in-depth investigations. I believe that the recommendations of the two committees will help the Government and the relevant oragnisations improve their systems and reinforce public confidence in the services concerned.
Boosting Implementation Capabilities
Augmenting the Civil Service Establishment
22. To effectively implement the new policies and initiatives proposed by the current-term Government and to tie in with the commissioning of various large-scale cross-boundary infrastructures, we have expanded the civil service establishment substantially by 3.7% in 2018-19, far exceeding the average year-on-year increases in the past ten years. Looking ahead, the Government will uphold the prudent principle in the management of the civil service establishment to ensure that our civil service will continue to develop in a steady and orderly manner and cater for the needs of social development.
Extending the Service of Civil Servants
23. To tie in with the goal of expanding the labour force and respond to the aspirations of our civil service colleagues, the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) invited, in July this year, serving civil servants joining the service between 1 June 2000 and 31 May 2015 to choose to retire at 65 (for civilian grades) or 60 (for disciplined services grades).
Establishing a Civil Service College
24. In my Policy Address last year, I proposed to establish a new civil service college with upgraded training facilities so as to further enhance training for civil servants in the areas of leadership, interactive communication with the public, use of I&T, etc. Apart from deepening civil servants’ understanding of our country’s development and the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR as well as enhancing their awareness of international affairs, the college is also tasked to promote exchanges with civil servants in other places. We have identified a “Government, Institution or Community” site with an area of about 11 000 square metres in Kwun Tong for redevelopment. In addition to the civil service college, our preliminary proposal is to provide a District Health Centre (DHC) and other community facilities in this composite development under the themes of “healthy living” and “lifelong learning”, with a view to enhancing the accessibility and city landscape of the district. We will consult the Kwun Tong District Council on the proposal in due course.
25. The civil service college is expected to be completed in 2026. In the meantime, the Civil Service Training and Development Institute currently under the CSB will continue to enhance training for civil servants, including training in innovation and use of technology to tie in with the Government’s Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong. We will set up a civil service training advisory board comprising relevant professionals and government officials to give guidance on training programmes for the civil service and its long-term development strategy, and to prepare for the development of the new civil service college.
Enhancing Inter-departmental Collaboration and Efficiency
26. Set up on 1 April this year, the PICO has, within just half a year, performed rather effectively in, for example, assisting the co-ordination of government measures to facilitate the development of the maritime industry and identifying suitable sites for the new public markets to be provided in Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung. The PICO has employed 18 policy and project co-ordination officers on a contract basis whereby young people can be closely involved in assignments reporting directly to the Chief Executive and participate in policy research and project co-ordination.
27. Besides, we have completed two organisational changes in the Government by transferring the Efficiency Unit to the ITB and the Legal Aid Department to the Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office. During public consultation on the Policy Address, there was a considerable amount of views suggesting that the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) was overburdened and should be split into two, with the establishment of a new policy bureau to co-ordinate housing and land policies. I generally agree that there is such a need and will further consider how to implement the suggestion.
28. To enhance the integrity of family policies, the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) will lead a study group to explore the feasibility of integrating the family-related policies, including those on children, women, the elderly and family currently put under the respective purviews of the LWB and the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB).
29. High-level steering with enhanced co-ordination is a practicable alternative to organisational restructuring. The Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary and I provide steer for the relevant policy areas by chairing high-level committees. For example, I chair the Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology and the Steering Committee for the Development of the Greater Bay Area to be established shortly; the Chief Secretary for Administration chairs the commissions and steering committees in relation to youth development, ethnic minorities and human resources; and the Financial Secretary chairs the Financial Leaders Forum and the high-level tourism co-ordinating meeting.
30. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the civil service, which has all along been delivering efficient and quality services to the general public with professionalism. In particular, when the Super Typhoon “Mangkhut” swept through Hong Kong recently, all government departments worked together to protect the lives and properties of the citizens and ensure public safety by discharging their duties fearlessly under the inclement weather. I would also like to thank thousands of volunteers and people from the local community who have actively participated in handling the aftermath. They should be commended for fully demonstrating the Hong Kong spirit of mutual care and assistance.
31. The rule of law is the most important core value of Hong Kong, and independence of the Judiciary is the key to embodying the rule of law. The Basic Law lays out the fundamental principles underpinning our independent judicial system. Notable ones are the independent exercise of judicial power by our courts free from interference, vesting of the power of final adjudication of the HKSAR in our Court of Final Appeal (CFA), and invitation of judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on our CFA. We will continue to steadfastly safeguard judicial independence and uphold the rule of law. Let me reiterate that, any behaviour arising from disappointment with certain court verdicts, including unreasonable attacks on the judicial system and the Judiciary, interference with the independence of judicial power or verbal insults on judges, are totally unacceptable as well as detrimental to the judicial system and the spirit of jurisdiction in Hong Kong. As the Chief Justice of the CFA, Mr Geoffrey MA Tao-li, pointed out at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2018, any criticisms which are levelled against the Judiciary should be on an informed basis. Courts and judges are concerned only with the law and the legal issues which arise in any disputes to be determined by them. It is not relevant, nor is it any part of their constitutional duty to adjudicate on political, economic or social issues as such without reference to the law. It is in everyone’s interest that the rule of law remains strong, respected and visible.
32. To ensure the effective operation of the Judiciary, the Government has all along been providing sufficient resources and necessary support to the Judiciary. Concerning court facilities, the Judiciary has set up a central steering committee to oversee the new High Court project adjacent to the Central Government Offices at Tamar and the District Court project at Caroline Hill Road. The relevant departments will work closely with the Judiciary to press ahead with these two major projects that can address the long-term needs of the courts. On human resources, the Government has accepted the proposals of the Judiciary and plans to extend the statutory retirement ages for judges and judicial officers to 70 (judges at the level of the Court of First Instance of the High Court and above) and 65 (judicial officers below the High Court level). This will be conducive to the goal of enhancing judicial manpower, address the recruitment difficulties of the Judiciary, and help retain senior judicial talent with extensive experience. We will introduce the relevant legislative amendments for scrutiny by the LegCo as soon as possible.
Legislating for Article 23 of the Basic Law
33. The HKSAR Government has the constitutional responsibility to legislate for Article 23 of the Basic Law in order to safeguard national security. I have stated publicly for a number of times that the Government will carefully consider all relevant factors, act prudently and continue its efforts to create a favourable social environment for the legislative work. Yet, it does not suggest that we will turn a blind eye to the acts of violating the Constitution and the Basic Law, attempting to secede from the country and endangering national security; or our existing laws will be put aside and never be applied to deal with certain acts that should be prohibited. The fact that the Secretary for Security took actions last month by applying the Societies Ordinance bears a strong testimony to the above. This issue has aroused extensive public concern and intense discussion on the legislation for Article 23. I will listen to these views earnestly and explore ways to enable the Hong Kong society to respond positively to this constitutional requirement on the HKSAR.
Article 45 of the Basic Law: Selection of the Chief Executive by Universal Suffrage
34. On the work to effect the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage, my stance remains the same as last year. I understand the aspirations of the community, in particular our young people, for selecting the Chief Executive through “One Person, One Vote”. Yet, I cannot ignore the reality and rashly embark on political reform again as this will divert the attention of our society from development. The HKSAR Government will act prudently in this respect.
35. The Basic Law stipulates the respective responsibilities of the executive authorities and the legislature of the HKSAR. The HKSAR Government respects the functions of the LegCo to exercise checks and balances on the executive authorities. This does not only manifest good governance, but also forms an integral part of the new style of governance of the current-term Government. Upon the proposal of the LegCo Committee on Rules of Procedure, I have been attending Chief Executive’s Question Time on a monthly basis to answer Members’ questions in a “short question, short answer” format, in addition to Chief Executive’s Question and Answer (Q&A) Session held four times a year. In the 2017-18 legislative session, I attended four Chief Executive’s Q&A Sessions and seven Chief Executive’s Question Times, and responded to a total of 139 questions. The Q&A Sessions strengthen accountability, while interaction with Members allows me to better feel the pulses of society and promptly respond to issues of public concern. For example, the “Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme” proposed in this Policy Address to assist the public with repair of lifts in older buildings is a response to Members’ suggestions.
36. In the 2017-18 legislative session, despite all the disputes relating to revision of the Rules of Procedures, the LegCo has achieved a lot. It passed a total of 27 Government Bills, more than double of the 12 bills passed in the 2016-17 legislative session. The Finance Committee also approved 98 items involving over $250 billion. The effectiveness of LegCo in carrying out its two major constitutional functions, i.e. law enactment and approval of funding, and in serving the people, to some extent, reflects the enhanced Executive-Legislature relationship. My political team and I will continue to communicate and interact with LegCo Members in a sincere and pragmatic manner, so that we may discuss, decide and proceed from the perspective of Hong Kong’s overall interests.
37. We attach great importance to taking in views from members of the District Councils (DCs) and local stakeholders, which helps resolve district issues and take forward district administration more effectively. After taking office, I asked all Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau to visit all 18 districts within two years to meet with people in the local communities and understand better the sentiment and needs of the districts. As at end-September 2018, they made 174 district visits, which translated into one visit every two working days on average. During the visits, the officials listen earnestly to local feedback and take necessary follow-up actions.
38. Cityscape and environmental hygiene are among the livelihood issues of greatest concern to the DCs and local communities. In this connection, the relevant departments have consulted the DCs on hygiene blackspots and action priorities in the second quarter of this year, and are implementing the corresponding action plans. These include stepping up efforts in cleansing, mosquito prevention, rodent prevention, the strength of enforcement, as well as beautifying and opening up selected vacant sites progressively.
39. Since its launch in 2013, projects under the Signature Project Scheme spearheaded by the respective DCs have been delivering results. Among the 25 funded projects, six have been in operation and are in general well received by the local community. We expect that most of the remaining projects will gradually come into operation next year to benefit local residents.
40. A corruption-free government and society as well as a deep-rooted probity culture in all walks of life are among Hong Kong’s key competitive edges. For 45 years, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been pursuing the corrupt independently and professionally in accordance with the law, without fear or favour. Its relentless effort has implanted a culture of integrity across the territory. The ICAC will continue to keep international ranking institutions abreast of Hong Kong’s probity situation, and will also assist foreign countries, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and other B&R countries, in building up their anti-corruption capacity. Such work not only fulfils Hong Kong’s international obligations, but also benefits Hong Kong investors seeking development opportunities in these places.
41. The Government commenced a comprehensive review of the strategy of handling non-refoulement claims in 2016. Initial results are positive, with the number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants and new non-refoulement claims dropping drastically by 80%. The number of claims pending screening by the Immigration Department has dropped from the peak of over 11 000 claims to less than 2 000 at present.
42. Having reviewed the experience in screening non-refoulement claims and taken into account overseas laws and practices, the Security Bureau will introduce a bill to amend the Immigration Ordinance early next year. The bill aims to improve the screening procedures by preventing people from using various means to delay or impede the screening process, so as to further increase the overall efficiency.
The Chief Executive’s Mission and Leadership
43. In March 2018, we set up the Chief Executive’s Council of Advisers on Innovation and Strategic Development. More than 30 members of the council are tendering advices on Hong Kong’s future development and strategies for driving innovation. Besides, in my Policy Address last year, I proposed to hold Chief Executive Summits on important policy areas. Since assuming office, I have already chaired three summits respectively on new directions for taxation, poverty alleviation and quality education, during which I listened to the views of the relevant sectors and stakeholders directly. I will chair a summit on rehabilitation next month. We will also organise summits on youth development and I&T next year.
44. On 1 July last year, I accepted the greatest honour in my life with humility and got myself prepared for the greatest challenge in my public service career. Over the past year or so, I have led my governing team to work with one heart. We stand united and rise to various challenges. I have worked in the Government for 38 years and have been upholding the principle of “saying what needs to be said; doing what needs to be done”, and I have never evaded anything. The mission of my team and myself is to grasp the opportunities, focus on development and improve people’s livelihood by uniting all sectors in the community, so as to enable the HKSAR to leverage its strengths under new circumstances to meet the needs of our country and integrate into its overall development.
45. The work of the Chief Executive is undoubtedly taxing. I need to remain composed and resilient under pressure, while taking care of the internal and external environment and unite all sectors of the community. Nevertheless, people’s aspirations for a happy life and good governance are the driving force to keep me striving forward.