22 February 2019
Carrie Lam (L) has called for resumption of the political reform process but the pro-democracy camp (R) is unlikely to accept pre-screening of candidates by Beijing for the Chief Executive election. Photos: HK Govt, Reuters
Carrie Lam (L) has called for resumption of the political reform process but the pro-democracy camp (R) is unlikely to accept pre-screening of candidates by Beijing for the Chief Executive election. Photos: HK Govt, Reuters

Carrie Lam’s ‘seven visions’: A closer look

Speaking at a forum organized by the civilian think-tank Path of Democracy last weekend, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor outlined her “seven visions for Hong Kong”.

At the end of her speech, the top government official invoked the lyrics of the all-time famous song “Imagine” written by John Lennon.

As Lam put forward a detailed blueprint for the future of Hong Kong, it has added to the speculation about her potential candidacy for the chief executive job next year.

While it remains to be seen if she will join the race or stay away, her “seven visions” do deserve further discussion and close scrutiny.

Let’s now list the the so-called visions. The are: 1. Upholding the rule of law and judicial independence; 2. Protecting human rights and freedom; 3. Facilitating democracy and fair elections; 4. Promoting a diversified economy and a healthy job market; 5. Nurturing the youth and attracting both foreign and domestic talent; 6. Fostering a more balanced urban development and improving the living environment in the city, and; 7. Promoting social harmony and friendly neighborhoods.

As far as “upholding the rule of law and judicial independence” is concerned, I believe nobody in Hong Kong would disagree with that, and Secretary Lam herself did live up to the promise. As far as I know, Lam, throughout her term as chief secretary, has never openly criticized any verdict given by courts over various judicial review cases filed by civilians.

However, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, her immediate superior, did not exercise the same degree of restraint as Lam did over the past four years on this issue. Leung has continued to criticize the public for abusing the judicial review mechanism, accusing people of stalling government infrastructural projects due to political motives.

I have pointed out numerous times before that if the head of the executive branch continues to question the rulings of the judiciary, it constitutes an open violation of the rule of law and judicial independence.

As Leung’s top official, it is Lam’s responsibility to strongly advise her boss against doing so, if she is really committed to upholding the rule of law as she has claimed.

There are two scenarios. She might have told her boss not to criticize the court but he didn’t listen, or she didn’t try to stop him at all. Either way, Lam hasn’t fulfilled her duty properly, and to some extent she is complicit in her boss’s violation of the rule of law and judicial independence by remaining silent.

Regarding her second vision, which is “protecting human rights and freedom”, Lam said that while rights must be protected, nobody is justified in breaking the law under any circumstance. What she said might be true, but is only part of the whole truth.

The whole truth is, citizens in Hong Kong should be asked to abide by the law with the assurance that the laws that are imposed on them are just and rightful, and that authorities are enforcing the laws fairly and impartially.

Unfortunately, the distinctly different ways the police and the Department of Justice treated protesters who broke the law during the Occupy Movement and law enforcement officers who were caught on camera beating passersby and some activists suggest that authorities are not enforcing the law equally and impartially.

How can Lam expect citizens to willingly obey and respect the law when the law itself isn’t applied to each and everyone in society equally?

On her third vision, which is “facilitating democracy and fair elections”, Lam stressed that it would be impossible for any future chief executive to win the hearts and minds of the people and rule with a clear mandate if he or she is not elected through “one person one vote”.

The fact is, the people of Hong Kong were indeed allowed “one person one vote” in the political reform package put forward by the administration last year. But under the framework laid down by the “831 Resolution”, the candidates had to be screened by Beijing beforehand through a nomination committee that lacked both credibility and representativeness.

That is the reason why the reform package failed to gain widespread support among the public.

Lam owes the people of Hong Kong a clear answer as to whether she thinks the “831 Resolution” was a mistake. Unless she takes a clear stance on the issue, she is in no position to talk about promoting democracy.

As for the other visions that she laid out, I will discuss them in my next article.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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