A Post-structuralist Perspective of Governance: Narrating Political Neutrality as a Mythical Norm in Hong Kong

Dr Luen Tim Percy Lui,
Mr Jack Yue,
Mr Simon Ng
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This paper is about narrating the role and identity of the Hong Kong civil servants from a post-structuralist perspective and examines how a concept of political neutrality (PN hereafter) was being constructed and practiced in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover. It challenges the conventional official claim that the society needs to preserve and perpetuate a long existent tradition of political neutrality, not to create a new one. The paper will start at the general level revisiting how a norm of PN evolves in the two western democracies, namely the Unites States of America and the United Kingdom, in terms of a modernist scheme of re-presentation. It points out that PN as a norm in these democracies is capable of producing symbolic values (for identifying "we" and "they") as well as substantive meanings (for prescribing tasks and skills). PN is the signified drawn from unique historical experiences, the language of PN is the signifier employed to serve the legitimization purpose, and the actual practice or behavior of civil servants is the referent that mirrors accurately the concept and the purpose.

In the case of Hong Kong, however, the paper argues, the relationship between praxis and meanings embedded in the concept of PN did not exist. PN was more breached than honored. By re-interpreting relevant Hong Kong cases and documents, the paper reveals instances of rupture in the (onto-)logical chain of the signified, the signifier and the referent. Instead, PN was strategically employed as rhetoric to serve the expedient purpose of ad hoc policy justification. PN is a myth, not a well-maintained tradition as the Government has invariably proclaimed. The paper will conclude that to erect a legitimate basis of governance, creating a new norm of PN rather than perpetuating something that was or is not out there is required.

Keywords: Civil Service System, Political neutrality, Post-structuralism, Rhetoric, Signification
Stream: Political Science, Politics
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Luen Tim Percy Lui

Lecturer, The Public Administration Program, School of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Lui Luen Tim Percy teaches public administration at the Open University of Hong Kong. He got his Ph.D. (public administration/public policy) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His research interests include public administration theory, bureaucratic responsibility, ethics in public administration, comparative civil service systems, and public policy analysis.

Mr Jack Yue

Lecturer, Division of Social Studies, The City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Mr Simon Ng

Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Ref: H05P0278