Speech at Panel on Public Service

II. Updating the Civil Service Code

Political neutrality

Members noted that “in any event, civil servants should never, directly or indirectly, organize or participate in any activity that impedes policy implementation by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR”) Government”, as stipulated in paragraph 53 of the updated Code. There was a concern that the meaning of “activity” was too vague to convey a clear understanding of what activity would impede the implementation of government policies. The Administration responded that whilst it was not able to provide an exhaustive list of examples, “activity” in the context of paragraph 53 of the updated Code include any act (including act on the internet) which hampered, for example, the administration or statutory procedures.

Enforcement of the updated Code

Members endorsed the updated Code for asking civil servants not to adopt the attitude of doing everything by the book mechanically but approach their work with passion, innovate and seek breakthroughs in their work, keep themselves abreast of developments in their own professions and foster team spirit among departments. Members enquired how the Administration could ensure civil servants’ compliance with the revised Code and the consequences if they failed to.

The Administration advised some core values of the updated Code concerned the conduct and integrity of civil servants, while some concerned their performance and working attitude. For those core values related to conduct and integrity, violation of which would be handled according to the established disciplinary mechanism. For those core values related to performance and working attitude (e.g. to have team spirit, be innovative), whether a civil servant met these standards of conduct in the updated Code would be reflected in their performance at work, which would be monitored by their supervisors and assessed in the performance appraisal. As the supervisors were in a position to observe their staff at work under different circumstances, they should be able to make an honest and fair performance appraisal. The poor performance of a civil servant would affect his/her promotion and posting prospects and might lead to the deferment of increments. Civil servants with persistent sub-standard performance might be retired under the new mechanism introduced in 2023.

Members suggested that relevant training, including teambuilding programmes, should be provided to equip civil servants with necessary skills and cultivate the correct mindset to enhance work efficiency and collaboration in the civil service.

The Administration advised that the Civil Service College (“CSC”) had been providing relevant training courses to civil servants, such as those on creativity and innovation. CSC would also assist B/Ds in organizing teambuilding programmes for fostering team spirits. B/Ds were also encouraged to incorporate teambuilding elements in their everyday activities, such as organizing volunteering activities to encourage their staff to participate in community services, e.g. participation in the promotion campaigns for the 2023 District Council Ordinary Election (“2023 DCOE”). After promulgation of the updated Code, the Administration would provide training to civil servants at all levels and strengthen promotion efforts to enhance civil servants’ understanding on the constitutional order, their roles and responsibilities, as well as the core values and standards of conduct they should uphold. For civil servants at middle and senior ranks, the Administration would collaborate with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in HKSAR to enhance their training on the country’s foreign affairs with a view to broadening civil servants’ international horizons.