By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Executive Council announced details of the new spokesperson system, which is the very first step of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On towards the creation of a “sunshine government”.
Former lawmaker Leong Heng Teng, who gave his first press conference as the spokesman of the Executive Council at the government headquarters yesterday, said discussions on the administrative regulation concerning the spokesperson system – proposed by Chui during his electoral campaign last July – were completed.
Leong, having succeeded Tong Chi Kin to become the third-term Executive Council’s spokesman, said that a new post of government spokesperson will be added in the Office of the Chief Executive.
That means this spokesperson will become a member of the Office.
Leong said the duties of the spokesperson are to “organise and ensure communications between the government, mass media and the public regarding matters of government policies, measures and activities, based on the orders of the Chief Executive”.
The spokesperson will receive a salary calculated on the highest salary point paid to a civil servant in a leader position within the administration, Leong said. If the spokesperson works on a part-time basis then he or she will only get maximum 60 percent of the full salary.
Leong did not disclose to reporters whether there will be more than one spokesperson or who the candidates are for the job, but said that it is “unrealistic to have only one spokesperson responsible for all the different government departments”.
Alexis Tam Chon Weng, head of Chui’s office said Wednesday that the government had already confirmed who will take up the new job, yet also refused to reveal his or her identity.
Leong said that the formal appointment will be announced after the system comes into effect, which Tam said will be within this month.
It is expected that the administration regulation will be gazetted shortly after the Lunar New Year holidays.
The Executive Council spokesman reiterated that the government spokesperson is a “system” as a whole, rather than an “individual”, adding the government will announce information through this system when necessary and follow the “sunshine policy” in order to increase transparency of the governance and also increase local people’s understanding of political affairs.
The system, he said, will be coordinated by the spokesperson.
However, Leong assured the media that officials will still be able to be interviewed in public or government events after the spokesperson assumes office.
When asked whether the spokesperson can be reached by reporters for information or comments whenever is needed, Leong did not give a direct answer but stressed that the key of the system is to “benefit the governance and allow the public to be aware of government policies”.
According to Leong, in the beginning the spokesperson will not hold regular press conferences as what the Chinese or other governments have been doing, but the government will study what approach will be the most beneficial gradually in the future.
He added that more specific details will be made known once the system becomes operational.