The government appointed just three women to its 34-strong Advisory Council, just a week after the UN urged the city to do more to include women in senior public positions

The government has defended the creation of an almost all-male “Council of Advisers” for the Chief Executive, claiming the concept of “appointment by merit prevails” in the formation of government advisory and statutory bodies.

The new Chief Executive Council of Advisers, described by the government as a “high-level advisory body on the strategic development of Hong Kong” is made up of 34 “distinguished and eminent leaders” employed until 30 June 2025 – but just three women made the cut.

The government did not answer questions on why so few women were hired for the new council, while a spokesperson for the Chief Executive Policy Unit claimed “Appointing more women to advisory and statutory bodies (ASBs) is the Government’s goal.”

But the spokesperson hinted at the possibility of affirmative action – dubbed “flexibility” – in pursuit of the government’s diversity goals.

“While flexibility is allowed having regard to the circumstances of respective ASBs and the principle of appointment by merit prevails, the Government will continue to look for more suitable candidates to further enhancing women’s participation in ASBs,” the spokesperson said.

The formation of the new male-dominated advisory panel came just a week after the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights raised serious concerns on gender equality in Hong Kong, urging the government to “enhance women’s participation in senior public positions, including by considering quotas”.

Women have poor representation on Hong Kong listed company boards

As noted by gender equality campaigners, Hong Kong has one of the poorest gender balance sheets in world financial capitals: according to the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Public Accountants, only 11% of listed companies in Hong Kong have three or more women on their boards, and 31% have no women on their boards at all.

The UN committee also recommended adopting “all necessary measures, with specific targets and a time frame, to eliminate the persistent gender wage gap” and to tackle gender stereotypes in the city.

But in an angry response, the government said the UN’s findings were “unfounded and misleading”, pointing out that females now account for 41% of directorate positions in the Civil Service, while 12 out of 18 Permanent Secretaries, the top non-politically appointed Civil Service job, were women.

While most of the government’s ire appeared to be aimed at the UN committee’s criticisms of the National Security Law and general human rights situation in Hong Kong, a government press release said it “deplores and rejects” the whole report, including all suggestions on gender equality.

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