Pan-democracy lawmakers were disappointed with the appointment of pro-Beijing Dr Christine Choi Yuk-lin as the new undersecretary for education, with uncertainty over whether the decision really came from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Pan-democrat Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker for the education sector, said on a radio programme on RTHK on Wednesdaythat it was a pity the government did not follow public opinion after Choi, former principal of Fukien Secondary School (Siu Sai Wan) and vice-chairman of Federation of Education Workers, was appointed undersecretary for the Education Department.
“We’re worried about Choi’s political background which would make a great impact on education policies, such as promoting the ‘national education’ courses,” said Ip. “She didn’t have a good reputation in the education sector too, so I doubt if she can take up such leadership role.”
Ip said the distrust among educators would present many challenges for Choi. “We’ll strictly monitor which policies she carries out in the future,” he said.
Choi faced a dismal loss against Ip in the bid to become lawmaker for the education functional constituency in the Legislative Council elections last September - 45,984 votes to 18,158 - so her appointment has upset the opposition.
Civic Party barrister and pan-democrat Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu questioned on Tuesday whether Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was under pressure when deciding who should take the position. “The Chief Executive refused to listen to the people. I think that’s a reflection of either her arrogance, or her hidden difficulty, an unspoken difficulty that we don’t know,” he said.
Lam on Wednesday said she didn’t understand why the new appointment meant “declaring war on the education sector”.
“I understand there are many different voices on Choi’s appointment as the new education undersecretary, but we should be more open-minded and tolerant. Let me reiterate we hire people based on capabilities instead of their political stances. I’ll continue hiring others based on this principle,” she said.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung echoed Lam’s views that the process of selecting the best candidate was based on their capabilities. “Choi is my best choice. With her rich frontline experience, I’m sure she is suitable for this position,” he said.
Asked if the opposition from the education sector would make her job “virtually impossible”, Choi saidit was certainly challenging. “But I have confidence and am looking forward to the opportunities to have constructive discussion with different stakeholders. I understand that there are different views on my appointment. I think I’ll try my best to talk to those parties,” she said.
Choi added her top priority was not reviewing how to introduce “national education” courses into school curriculum. “My main duty is to work with the education secretary to carry out education policies which are beneficial to schools, teachers and students.”