A pro-Beijing school principal was officially appointed Hong Kong’s new education undersecretary on Tuesday despite strong opposition, as the government unveiled its first batch of political appointees to serve government ministers.
The awarding of the job to Christine Choi Yuk-lin could herald more conflict between the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the city’s pro-democracy bloc of politicians, which expressed fierce objections to her taking on the role due to her Beijing-friendly stance.
Critics fear the appointment of Choi, who recently resigned as vice-chairman of the Federation of Education Workers to take up the position, could mean her spearheading the return of a campaign to implement a controversial national education curriculum under Lam.
In 2012 the government was forced to shelve plans for such a curriculum, aimed at instilling patriotism and strengthening Chinese identity, in local schools after 10 days of protests and claims it would be a brainwashing exercise.
Choi, principal of the conservative Fukien Secondary School (Siu Sai Wan), lost heavily to pan-democrat Ip Kin-yuen in elections for the city’s legislature last September.
A government official saidon Monday that Choi had been the sole candidate for the position despite objections from pan-democrats. Sources from the Legislative Council’s pro-establishment camp said high-profile protests against Choi’s candidacy may have strengthened her claim to the job, as Lam had then come under pressure not to back down.
Choi will assume her duties on Wednesday.
Eighteen people were selected on Tuesday to join Lam’s administration as undersecretaries and political assistants who serve government ministers.
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Sonny Au Chi-kwong, a senior assistant police commissioner, was named deputy chief of the Security Bureau. His appointment marks the first time senior police officers have filled the top three positions at the bureau.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s largest pro-government party and a strong backer of Lam’s election bid earlier in the year, appeared to be the biggest winner from the appointments.
Members Casper Tsui Ying-wai and Bernard Chan Pak-li were elevated from political assistants to undersecretaries in the Labour and Welfare Bureau and Commerce and Economic Development Bureau respectively.
But Kathy Siu Ka-yi, a DAB district councillor who was tipped for a political assistant role, was not on Tuesday’s list of appointees.
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The Liberal Party’s Joseph Chan Ho-lim was named undersecretary of the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, while Mark Fu Chuen-fu became political assistant at the Transport and Housing Bureau.
Senior bureaucrats Andy Chan Shui-fu and Liu Chun-san previously quit their positions in the civil service, clearing the way for them to become the new No 2 officials at the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau and Development Bureau respectively.
Dr Chui Tak-yi, a former chief executive of the city’s Kowloon East group of hospitals, was appointed undersecretary at the Food and Health Bureau. In May he was forced to apologise for a serious blunder at a local hospital which led to a mother suffering acute liver failure.
Elizabeth Fung Hoi-yung, a member of the middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy, was appointed political assistant at the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. Path of Democracy was founded by Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the Executive Council, which advises the chief executive.