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Official storming out of meeting no violation: govt

2020-01-17 HKT 13:01
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  • Official storming out of meeting no violation: govt
Civil Service Secretary Joshua Law has defended a district officer who walked out of a council meeting on Thursday just as members were about to discuss a motion to condemn the police force over claims of brutality.

Susanne Wong, along with other secretariat staff, left the Central and Western District Council meeting, saying the government didn't agree with the motion – which was passed – because it was not based on facts.

Law told legislators at a finance committee meeting scrutinising pay rises for civil servants that he didn’t think the district officer had violated the Civil Service code.

"The code requires civil servants to carry out their duties based on the policies and decisions of the current term of the government. Judging from what happened [on Thursday], I don’t think she violated the code," he said.

But the Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung called the district officer’s move "an act against the people", saying civil servants must be politically neutral.

The Civic Party’s Tanya Chan questioned whether officials can just walk out of a meeting from now on if they don’t like what is being discussed.

"What’s the point of having a meeting then? Is the opposition camp allowed to exist? Is expressing dissenting views not allowed? Are councillors not allowed to say something officials don’t like to hear?" Chan asked the Civil Service chief.

But Law replied by saying that he didn’t see Chan's comments as having any relevance to the pay rise funding application.

It was not the first time that government officials have walked out of a district council meeting since November’s elections which saw the pro-democracy camp take the vast majority of seats across the city.

Tai Po’s district officer also left a meeting on Wednesday as councillors were about to elect a chairman for a newly set up security and constitutional affairs committee.

The Home Affairs Department said the terms of reference for the committee may not be in line with the District Councils Ordinance.