Hong Kong Civil Servants Resign in Record Numbers Amid Crackdown

Nearly 2,000 leave government jobs as the city forces anyone in public life to sign an oath of allegiance limiting what they can say in public.
2021-05-13
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Hong Kong Civil Servants Resign in Record Numbers Amid Crackdown People attend a protest held by civil servants in the Central District of Hong Kong Aug. 2, 2019, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that was quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms
AFP

Civil servants in Hong Kong have been resigning at record rates since the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a national security law on the city, and the city government required them to pledge an oath of loyalty.

More than 1,800 civil servants resigned during the year ending April 2021, the Civil Service Bureau said in documents submitted to the city's Legislative Council (LegCo), around one percent of the entire government payroll, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

 A further 6,000 civil servants retired during the same period, three percent of the total payroll, including nearly 150 department heads, around 10 percent of the total at that pay grade, according to the Economic Times newspaper.

 The figures were made public after the Hong Kong government said last month it was terminating the contracts of 129 civil servants who hadn't yet signed the written oath of allegiance to the government.

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip told lawmakers at the time that some had written on the oath form that the requirement infringed their right to free speech.

The declaration vows that the officials will "bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China ... and be responsible to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."

Nip has previously said it is a "fundamental responsibility" of government employees to bear allegiance to Hong Kong and its administration. Officials have previously said that this responsibility includes not making public criticisms of the government and its policies.

The requirement to pledge loyalty to the government comes amid a citywide crackdown on peaceful dissent and political opposition since a draconian national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020.

In January, Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK terminated the permanent civil service contract and benefits of a journalist known for her hard-hitting questions of government officials, the staff union said.

Work placements in China

TV current affairs anchor Nabela Qoser, fired a series of hard-hitting questions at chief executive Carrie Lam about a July 31 attack by armed thugs on train passengers in Yuen Long, prompting Lam and other top officials to walk out of a news conference, was later let go from a short-term contract she signed in its place.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam on Monday revealed plans to send Hong Kong civil servants on work placements to mainland China, adding that mainland Chinese officials would be welcome to undertake placements in Hong Kong.

The exchanges are likely to take place between cities in the Greater Bay Area around the Pearl River delta, as part of an ongoing attempt to integrate Hong Kong more closely with southern China.

On Tuesday, Lam refused to be drawn on whether there was an outright ban on a planned candlelight vigil commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Victoria Park, replying only that the government would "act in accordance with the law."

However, she said that the right to peaceful assembly had been "abused," blaming the foreign media for assuming that someone who expresses a political viewpoint at a peaceful protest cannot have committed a crime.

Police commissioner Chris Tang declined to answer when asked if police would issue a "letter of no objection" to allow the rally to proceed or not.

Last week, the District Court handed jail terms to jailed democracy activist Joshua Wong and three opposition members of the city's District Council for attending last year's Tiananmen massacre vigil in defiance of a ban that was ostensibly linked to coronavirus restrictions.

Wong was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment on May 6, while district councilor Lester Shum was jailed for six months. Fellow councilors Tiffany Yuen and Jannelle Leung were each handed four-month sentence.

All four had pleaded guilty to taking part in the rally. Wong, Shum, and Yuen also stand accused of "subversion" under the national security law after they took part in a democratic primary in July 2020, that was geared towards winning a majority of LegCo seats for pro-democracy parties.

Reported by Chan Yun Nam for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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