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How Politicised is the Hong Kong Civil Service?


In Hong Kong, in the recent past, there have been considerable changes in the relationship between political appointees and civil servants. Three patterns can be distinguished. Under colonial rule, senior civil servants were both administrators and de facto politicians. After 1997, there was a constitutional separation of those roles. More recently, political appointees have been extended to the level of Deputy Secretary and Political Assistant. This changing relationship has important implications for the political system. First, the concept of political neutrality has been significantly affected. Second, forms of accountability and legitimation have changed. Third, lines of command in the civil service and responsibility for policy-making have become unclear. The paper will conclude with a comparison of the extent of politicisation in the British and Hong Kong civil services.


Professor Scott is Adjunct  Professor in the Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong and Emeritus Professor at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. His latest book is The Public Sector in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010).