26 October 2016
Carrie Lam (center) has been busy talking to lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp, an indication she may be canvassing support to run for chief executive next year. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam (center) has been busy talking to lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp, an indication she may be canvassing support to run for chief executive next year. Photo: HKEJ

‘The buck stops here’ never applies to Carrie Lam

After having taken the liberty of diverting the remaining HK$100 million (US$12.9 million) in government donations originally intended for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims into funding the Wolong national giant panda sanctuary in an apparent effort to please Beijing, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been pretty busy weighing in on current affairs lately with lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp.

Even people with the least political sense can tell she is obviously canvassing support for a bid to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017.

It is said that during her meetings with pro-establishment heavyweights to seek their support, Lam laid down her three major campaign pledges, including bringing Link REIT into line, curbing MTR fare hikes and addressing public discontent with the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme.

Her goals may sound ambitious and her pledges impressive, but if we look more closely, we can easily tell that what Lam has come up with is just a load of half-hearted measures that hardly get to the root of the issues.

Simply put, what she did was just repeat the same pack of lies told by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying during his campaign four years ago to cheat members of the Election Committee out of their votes.

As far as Link REIT is concerned, it is said that Lam has proposed two options to bring the company’s business operations more into line with government policies.

First, she vowed that she would build public wet markets and shopping malls next to the existing malls run by Link, to introduce more competition.

Second, she proposed to provide shuttle bus service for public housing estate residents to give them easier access to public markets.

Her suggestions are completely far-fetched and mind-boggling.

Link runs more than 200 shopping malls across the city. Is she going to build 200 more to complete with them?

Like I said before, the only way to bring Link REIT into line is to invoke Article 4(1) of the Housing Ordinance and take it to court.

However, I don’t think Lam has the guts to do that.

Likewise, to get a grip on the relentless fare hikes of the MTR, the administration needs to take the bull by the horns and thoroughly review the entire transport policy of our city and stop giving the MTR an unfair advantage over other transport service providers, such as bus companies.

When I heard Lam proposed to streamline the MPF scheme, I was pretty shocked that she even had the nerve to bring that up at all.

Let’s not forget she has been the most stubborn and biggest opponent of all to the introduction of a universal pension scheme, the ultimate answer to the debate about retirement benefits for our citizens.

Her proposal to improve the MPF scheme to address public concerns is sheer hypocrisy.

As a matter of fact, Lam has skirted around several fundamental issues regarding our society, simply because she doesn’t dare rattle the cage of powerful vested interests.

For example, Lam avoided touching on housing, which is the No. 1 concern of our citizens, because she doesn’t have the spine to challenge the mighty real estate oligarchs who basical control our economy and who have a lot of influence in the Election Committee.

If she is really determined to take on the housing issue, I strongly suggest she combine the Urban Renewal Authority, the Housing Authority and the Housing Society to achieve synergy.

Similarly, Lam dodged the healthcare issue, because it might antagonize the powerful private medical sector.

In fact, the best way to solve our healthcare problems is to divert more resources into our public hospitals and to open up the market for more competition by allowing more overseas-trained doctors to practice in Hong Kong, rather than sending patients to the private sector to maximize their profits.

Again, Lam probably won’t do it, because it may anger the medical vested interests.

In the meantime, there is also a growing concern in society about the government’s secret agenda to brainwash our children by enforcing the teaching of Chinese lessons in Mandarin in our schools.

If Lam really breathes the same air as her fellow Hongkongers, like she has claimed, she definitely has an obligation to address that concern.

Also hanging by a thread is our rule of law and judicial independence, the cornerstone of the prosperity of our city.

If Lam really wants to convince the people in this city that she is someone to whom we can look for leadership, she must take a crystal clear stand on how to defend our rule of law in face of Beijing’s continued interference in our judiciary.

The problem is, unfortunately, Carrie Lam is just the same kind of barefaced and shameless political opportunist as Leung, with no integrity whatsoever.

Just look at the way she blatantly denied responsibility for the lead contamination scandal even after the independent inquiry had published its report attributing the crisis to government negligence, and you can tell her true colors.

What bloody nerve that she thinks she is cut out to be the next chief executive!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 3

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former radio talk show host; Columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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