HK’s Lam Has Veiled Dig at Predecessor in Call for Unity

06-Jul-2017 Intellasia | Bloomberg | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s new leader distanced herself from her predecessor’s fraught relationship with city lawmakers, vowing better communication as she sought to break years of political deadlock.

Five days after becoming the city’s first female chief executive, Carrie Lam went before the Legislative Council on Wednesday promising more frequent meetings with lawmakers. Hong Kong’s former No. 2 said her government would lobby the chamber’s 70 democratically elected members directly to ensure their concerns were heard.

“I am a bit saddened seeing the internal conflicts and scuffles in the past few years,” Lam said in a rare public critique of her ally and former boss, Leung Chun-ying. “Seeing the poor administrative-legislative relationship and the lack of trust between officials and lawmakers slow down the speed of policy implementation, I am concerned, but not disheartened.”

Lam’s olive branch to lawmakers came after President Xi Jinping presided over her July 1 inauguration on the former British colony’s 20th anniversary of Chinese rule. The speech to the Legislative Council represented her most substantive attempt to differentiate herself from the unpopular Leung, whose five-year term was marred by street protests and the emergence of an independence movement.

A one-time colonial civil servant who was preparing to retire before Leung decided not to seek a second term, Lam, 60, has pledged to focus on healing political divides. China’s support helped her overcome a more popular challenger in March to win an election by a committee of 1,200 political and business elites dominated by Beijing loyalists.

“At a time when some citizens are feeling anxious and confused, my top priority is to unite the society,” Lam said. “Therefore, connecting all parts of society extensively would be an important job for me and my executive team.”

Read more: Xi says Hong Kong should profit from China — not defy it

To that end, she is seeking an early victory in the Legislature, where the pro-democracy opposition blocked many of Leung’s most ambitious proposals including a China-backed overhaul of the electoral process. Lam proposed a HK$5 billion ($640 million) education fund that appeared to enjoy across-the-board support.

The proposal includes converting contract teachers to full-time positions and paying annual subsidies of HK$30,000 for students who are funding their own undergraduate education.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Lam’s approach would sway an opposition suspicious of perceived efforts to restrict the “high-degree of autonomy” China promised before Hong Kong’s return. Lam deflected a question from James To, of the Democratic Party, seeking a pledge to deliver a direct election for chief executive by 2022.

“Allowing all Hong Kong citizens to vote for their desired candidate benefits administration,” Lam said, adding that she would “build favourable conditions.” “The first step is to communicate.”


Category: Hong Kong

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