Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has dismissed speculation that there may be an exodus of senior civil servants if leadership candidate Carrie Lam is elected.
Rumours that senior civil servants may quit began circulating after former lawmaker Emily Lau suggested that at least three permanent secretaries will leave the government should Lam be elected. One of Lam’s former colleagues in the government also called her a “control freak.”
Two permanent secretaries in the government dismissed rumours of their potential resignation on Monday.
Leung said on Tuesday that “the whole administration, including the team of civil servants, is very stable.”
“There is no such thing as the so-called exodus. The matter is election hype. It is groundless – those senior administrative officers who were rumoured to be leaving have clarified,” he said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting.
Leung said it was nothing new for voters to express their preferences when asked about former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa suggesting that electors vote for Lam.
“As for those 300-odd pro-democracy electors… they will not vote for Carrie Lam, and it looks like most of them will vote for John Tsang – I don’t think anyone is surprised,” he said.
Leung was asked about a column by the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s founder, commonly known by his pen name Lam Hang-chi, which said last week that Beijing may create a new position for Leung so he could remain in the Hong Kong government after he steps down in July.
Lam said it was because Beijing trusts Leung to be a vice chairman of the top political advisory body and because he could use his experience to advise the next leader on how to protect “national security.”
“You think this is news at all?” Leung replied. “This is not true. Next question.”
He refuted follow-up questions by saying: “There is no such news, there are no such plans… pure speculation.”
Leung was also asked if he has an empty desk in his office, after Carrie Lam apparently made a sarcastic comment at the debate on Sunday, saying that she envied Tsang for not having a desk stacked with files like hers.
Leung said the question was “meaningless,” as the number of files on his desk depends on how busy he is, or on whether he has just returned from a holiday or work trip.
Woo Kwok-hing is the third candidate running for chief executive.