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Home > Administration of the civil service >> Oath-taking / Declaration Requirement for Civil Servants

Oath-taking / Declaration Requirement for Civil Servants

      FAQs      

Q1

Are all civil servants required to take an oath or sign a declaration?

A1

All civil servants of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR Government”) are required to take an oath or declare that they will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (“Basic Law”), bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (“HKSAR”), be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government.

All civil servants are required to sign a declaration save that civil servants appointed to senior positions such as Heads of Department are additionally required to take an oath, the contents of which would be the same as the declaration.

 

Q2

Why are civil servants required to take an oath or sign a declaration?

A2

It has consistently been the duty of civil servants to uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR, be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government under the Basic Law and the Civil Service Code.  All civil servants should in no uncertain terms acknowledge and accept these duties.

In order to enhance civil servants’ awareness of the expectations and responsibilities brought on them by their official positions, we have introduced an arrangement to require all civil servants to declare that they will uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR, be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government.  This is an open acknowledgement of the acceptance and a genuine manifestation of the responsibilities of and expectations on civil servants, which will further safeguard, strengthen and promote the core values that must be upheld by civil servants, and ensure the effective governance of the HKSAR Government.

It is also of relevance that Article 6 of “The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”, which was enacted and promulgated in Hong Kong on 30 June 2020 and came into effect at 11 p.m. on 30 June 2020, stipulates that “[a] resident of the [HKSAR] who stands for election or assumes public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in accordance with the law”.

 

Q3

When should serving civil servants return their signed declarations?

A3

The Civil Service Bureau issued a circular to all policy bureaux and departments on 15 January this year, promulgating the requirement for civil servants appointed to the civil service before 1 July 2020 to take oath or sign a declaration.  Civil servants should sign and return their declaration within four weeks after the department issues the letter concerned.

 

Q4

For civil servants who will soon retire, are they still required to take the oath or sign the declaration?

A4

Generally speaking, all civil servants who were appointed to the civil service before 1 July 2020 and are still in active service as at the date of promulgation of the circular by the Civil Service Bureau to all departments are required to sign the declaration.  Enquiries concerning the detailed arrangements for individual officers should be directed to the departments concerned.

 

Q5

For civil servants who resign, are they still required to take the oath or sign the declaration?

A5

Generally speaking, all civil servants who were appointed to the civil service before 1 July 2020 and are still in active service as at the date of promulgation of the circular by the Civil Service Bureau to all departments are required to sign the declaration.  If a civil servant has served notice to resign, the department will normally not require him / her to sign the declaration.  However, enquiries concerning the detailed arrangements for individual officers (e.g. where the officer will remain in service for a period longer than the usual resignation notice period) should be directed to the departments concerned.

 

Q6

Will there be any conflicts for civil servants with non-Chinese nationalities or holding foreign passports to take the oath or sign the declaration?

A6

According to Article 99 of the Basic Law, public servants serving in all government departments of the HKSAR must be permanent residents of the HKSAR, except where otherwise provided for in Article 101 of the Basic Law.  In other words, there is no stipulated requirement in the Basic Law about the nationality of a civil servant or the passport that he / she holds.  As civil servants of the HKSAR Government, regardless of their nationalities or the passports they hold, it has consistently been the duty and responsibility of civil servants to uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR, be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government.

 

Q7

Does the content of the oath/declaration apply to retired civil servants?

A7

Civil servants, after leaving the service, will no longer have the capacity and duties as civil servants, nor will their conduct after leaving the service be subject to the civil service disciplinary mechanism.

However, pursuant to the relevant pensions legislation or the terms and conditions of the Civil Service Provident Fund Scheme, the retirement benefits (including pensions, or Government’s Voluntary Contributions and Special Disciplined Services Contributions benefits (if applicable), as the case may be) of a civil servant may be withheld, cancelled or reduced, etc. under certain prescribed circumstances.  Such circumstances include, for example, the following:

  • if the civil servant retired during any disciplinary proceedings brought against him or resigned to avoid disciplinary proceedings, which had they been completed or taken place would have led to removal punishments;
  • if the civil servant, after leaving the service, is convicted of any offence in connection with the public service under the Government, being an offence which is certified by the Chief Executive to have been gravely injurious to Hong Kong or to be liable to lead to serious loss of confidence in the public service.

If the misconduct leading to such prescribed circumstances involves a breach of the oath/declaration, the Government will also take into account the fact that the misconduct is committed by the retired civil servant even though he has taken the oath or signed the declaration while in service, in determining the handling of the retirement benefits of the civil servant concerned.

 

Q8

What are the consequences for refusal to take the oath or duly sign and return the declaration?

A8

Negligence or refusal to take the oath or to duly sign and return the declaration by a civil servant casts serious doubts on his / her willingness to take up these basic duties as well as his / her sense of duty and commitment to serve as a civil servant. Furthermore, it will have an adverse impact on the entire civil service as well as good governance. In view of the resulting loss of confidence in the officer, the suitability of the officer concerned to remain in the civil service to continue discharging his / her official duties is questionable. Hence, the Government will, with regard to the specific circumstances of each case, decide whether to initiate action in accordance with the mechanisms under the Public Service (Administration) Order (PS(A)O) or the relevant disciplined services legislation as appropriate to terminate the service of the officer. The officer concerned will be given an opportunity to make representations in the process.

Where a civil servant who is on probationary or agreement terms neglects or refuses to take the oath or to duly sign and return the declaration, his / her probationary / agreement terms service shall be terminated immediately.

 

Q9

Will applicants for civil service jobs be required to sign the declaration when submitting a job application or during the selection process?

A9

Applicants for civil service jobs will not be required to sign the declaration when submitting a job application or during the selection process.

Heads of Department/Grade will specify in the letters of appointment when issuing conditional offers as one of the conditions for appointment that the prospective appointee shall sign the declaration.  The prospective appointee shall return the signed declaration as part and parcel of his/her acceptance of the appointment offer.

 

Q10

If a prospective appointee to the civil service does not sign the declaration as required, will he/she still be appointed?

A10

In case a prospective appointee neglects or refuses to duly sign and return the declaration, he/she will be treated as failing to meet the conditions for appointment and the conditional offer shall lapse accordingly.

 

Q11

What constitutes a breach of the oath or declaration?

A11

It is not feasible to list exhaustively all types of improper conduct which constitutes a breach of the oath or declaration.  Nevertheless, the following are examples of improper conduct to be considered in breach of the oath or declaration:

  • advocating or supporting “Hong Kong independence”;
  • refusing to recognise the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong and the exercise of the sovereignty;
  • soliciting intervention by foreign or external forces in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s affairs;
  • carrying out other activities endangering national security;
  • committing serious violation of the law, including violent acts that disrupt public order and safety;
  • using official position to further personal interests or the private interests of others;
  • expressing opinion contrary to the Government’s stance in their official capacity;
  • committing gross negligence of their duties or gross failure to discharge their duties.

The circular issued by the Civil Service Bureau to all policy bureaux and departments on 15 January 2021 has elaborated on the content of the oath / declaration and what constitutes a breach of the oath / declaration.  The Civil Service Bureau has also produced a short video (link) to introduce the content of the oath/declaration to civil servants in a clear and lucid manner.

 

Q12

What are the consequences for breach of oath or declaration?

A12

The Government has an established mechanism to handle disciplinary matters of civil servants. If a civil servant commits a misconduct, the Government will, having regard to the specific circumstances of the case, take appropriate disciplinary action(s) in accordance with the established mechanism against the officer for the misconduct committed. If the misconduct also involves a breach of the oath / declaration, the case will still be dealt with according to the civil service rules and regulations. In determining the punishment arising from the misconduct involved in accordance with the PS(A)O or the relevant disciplined services legislation, the Government will take into account the circumstances, nature and gravity of the case, etc., and will certainly also take into consideration the fact that the misconduct is committed by the civil servant even though the officer has taken an oath or signed a declaration to acknowledge the expectations and responsibilities brought by the official position on him / her.

 

Q13

Do civil servants enjoy the freedoms of speech, assembly and association protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance?

A13

Taking the oath or signing the declaration would not affect the civil rights of civil servants.  According to the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, civil servants, like other members of the public, enjoy freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly and association.  However, as with other jurisdictions, these rights are not absolute.  When exercising such rights, one must bear in mind the need to safeguard national security, public peace and order.  For civil servants, when they exercise these rights, they must also be aware of the responsibilities and requirements brought on them by their official positions.

 

 

 

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