Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service

Meeting on 25 August 1997
Post Titles of Principal Officials


Members have asked why the English post titles of some Principal Officials namely those of the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Secretaries for Bureaux, and the Commissioner, Independent Commission Against Corruption, are not in line with the titles as laid down in the Basic Law. This paper explains why this is the case.

Difference between rank titles and post titles

2.It is not uncommon within the civil service for an officer to have a post title which is different from his rank title. The post title generally reflects an officer ' s functions in a particular post while the rank title reflects his position within the grade. Thus in the Police, there are "District Commander" posts taken up by officers in the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police, in Policy Bureaux there are "Principal Assistant Secretary" posts typically held by officers in the rank of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C, and in Social Welfare Department, there are "District Social Welfare Officer" posts held by officers in the rank of Chief Social Work Officer.

Reasons for adopting the current post titles

3.The adoption of the post title "Chief Secretary for Administration" is to help to ensure that the role and responsibilities of the title holder within the Government hierarchy is clearly understood by the international community. This would not have been achieved if the Basic Law title of "Administrative Secretary" had been used since outside Hong Kong such a title could be misconstrued as a middle ranking official responsible for the general co-ordination of government activities. While we have adopted "Chief Secretary for Administration" as the post title, the rank title is the same as the Basic Law title of "Administrative Secretary".

4.Similar operational considerations led to the decision to retain the post title "Secretary" rather than adopting the Basic Law title of "Director of Bureau". The use of the latter title could cause considerable difficulty for Principal Officials when representing Hong Kong abroad. The title of "Secretary" is generally recognised as being at a very senior level in a government while the title of "Director" could be perceived as being a middle ranking functionary. While the post title retains the word "Secretary", the rank title for all heads of Bureaux is "Director".

5.The English title, "Commissioner, Independent Commission Against Corruption" is retained primarily because of the adverse message that could have been sent to both the Hong Kong public and the international community if the word "Independent" had been deleted from the Commissioner ' s title. We believe that it is essential to maintain a clear statement of the continuing independence of the Commission ' s office.

6.The arrangement for adopting a post title which is different from a rank title has been made having regard to largely practical considerations. While we have used different post titles for some of the Principal Officials, their rank titles are the same as those in the Basic Law. A list of the titles of Principal Officials is at Annex.

Civil Service Bureau
19 August 1997