Members of the opposition camp have made it a habit to oppose anything the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government comes up with. But their argument that requiring public servants to swear allegiance to the HKSAR and to uphold the Basic Law will create “white terror” among civil servants still raised eyebrows.
The Civil Service Ordinance requires all public servants to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the SAR government. By accepting an offer to join the civil service, all public servants have in effect acknowledged their acceptance of such obligations.
There is nothing new in the SAR government’s proposal that all civil servants joining the government on or after July 1 are required to confirm in writing that they uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the SAR. The proposed requirement merely seeks to formalize those implied obligations required of all public servants.
The requirement for public servants to sign a legally binding oath is necessary, given the fact that some unscrupulous public servants have brazenly ignored their obligations and participated in anti-government protests over the past year.
Opposition legislators and public servants who took issue with this requirement will have to explain why similar oaths taken by all court judges and principal officials of the HKSAR government upon taking office have caused no such “concerns”, not to mention objections.
As a matter of fact, it is a common practice by most if not all of the governments around the world to require public-office holders to take such oaths upon taking office. This is a matter of accountability and public confidence in those who are paid to serve the public. Although public trust is earned with worthy deeds rather than words, taking a vow of allegiance is still necessary to hold civil servants accountable in writing.
Indeed, civil servants worldwide are commonly obligated to support their government policies, irrespective of their own political beliefs or personal stances on the relevant issues. Australia’s Supreme Court has validated this principle — at least for the part of the world that have adopted the common law system — in a landmark case in which an Australian immigration officer was ruled to be rightly dismissed by the government for using a pseudonym on Twitter to criticize the Australian government’s immigration policy. Public servants who took issue with the SAR government’s new proposal should better study this case carefully.
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