The Secretary for Civil Service Joshua Law on Monday said he would not speculate on how supporting the idea of Hong Kong independence would affect someone's chances of working for the government or how such views could be negated if such a person did join the ranks.
Law was asked for clarification by the Democratic Party's Lam Cheuk-ting at a Legco panel meeting after Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Sunday that people hoping to run for Legco could prove they do not – or no longer – support independence by becoming a civil servant first.
Working for the government was put forward by Lam in a TV interview as an example of how someone could prove they have ditched a pro-independence stance if they wanted to run for office. She said the "evidence will become clear" after they had been with the government for some time.
Law noted that an integrity check is applied to would-be civil servants during the recruitment process, but did not say if this includes vetting a candidate's political stance.
"I will not speculate here. But what is important is that after joining the Civil Service, all civil servants have to go by the Civil Service regulations and one of those is that they have to stand firm by the rule of law, and they must be politically neutral," Law told legislators.
On Friday, a returning officer barred the Labour Party's Lau Siu-lai from standing in next month's Kowloon West by-election, saying he did not believe she had abandoned her view that Hong Kong people should enjoy the right to self-determination.
He added that he believes she has an inclination towards independence, despite her repeated claims to the contrary.