Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she doesn’t think that making Hong Kong’s civil servants pledge allegiance to the SAR and the government will damage their morale.
The territory's 180,000 government workers have been given four weeks to sign a declaration or take an oath, with those who fail to do so running the risk of being dismissed.
In a circular sent to all civil servants last Friday, the government said “any act that aims to undermine the government in the governance and administration of Hong Kong” could be deemed a breach of the oath.
Civil service unions say such terms are too vague, leaving many of their members uneasy about what exactly could be seen as breaking the pledge.
But speaking to reporters before going into Tuesday's Executive Council meeting, Lam said civil servants have always been expected to support the government, and the pledge of allegiance is not an extra requirement.
She said the arrangement is to allow civil servants to show that they understand the public's expectations of them.
“Oath-taking is a very solemn matter. It is necessary for all civil servants, in fact, public servants to take the oath in order to demonstrate that under One Country, Two Systems, they fully understand they need to swear allegiance to the Basic Law and be loyal to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” she said.
The CE said that the more than 4,000 civil servants recruited since July 1 last year were "very willing" to sign the declaration when they took up their job offers.
“So I can’t see taking an oath or signing a declaration will affect our colleagues’ morale,” she said.
Lam said aside from the police and the Correctional Services Department, the government has largely not faced any problems with recruiting new staff.
The CE said many university graduates and professionals hope to join the government, especially as unemployment remains high.
Asked whether it's likely that civil servants will be genuine when they make the pledge of allegiance, or whether some might quit their jobs rather than do it, Lam said she didn't have a straight answer.
“I don’t think I have an answer for that. So, ultimately the test lies in the behaviour. If somebody who has taken an oath to swear allegiance and pledge loyalty has subsequently done something which is in breach of the oath, then appropriate actions will have to be taken by the authorities,” she said.