24 October 2016
Leung Chun-ying has yet to announce if he will run for a second term but his subordinate, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, appears to be making her own moves. Photos: HKEJ
Leung Chun-ying has yet to announce if he will run for a second term but his subordinate, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, appears to be making her own moves. Photos: HKEJ

Why would CY Leung send Carrie Lam away in September?

There is nothing more worrying for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying than the thought of being replaced next year by one – or rather, either of the two – of his subordinates.

Well, a turnover of leadership to subordinates is expected to happen in the United Kingdom in October, and quite possibly in the United States in November.

But the difference is that CY Leung wants to have another five years in office.

Before Beijing makes clear who is its favorite candidate, there are subtle moves to watch in the run-up to the March election.

One such development is Trade Development Council’s “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong”, an annual international business event where Leung has been the regular pointman.

This year, however, Leung has decided to pass. Instead, his deputy, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, will head up the delegation for a two-day whirlwind tour of four German cities.

She will be accompanied by several financial heavyweights in the Sept. 28-29 roadshow.

So what could possibly be more important for CY Leung, the No.1 crusader for China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, that he had to forgo this event at a time when Brexit is buffeting the European Union?

The Office of the Chief Executive has offered no insight to Leung’s decision to pass up this major overseas event, which he has been attending for three consecutive years, except pointing out that Leung would decide if he should participate a certain function based on his agenda and public service arrangements.

September 2016 is a very important month for Leung.

It’s not just the Legco election, the results of which will be seen as a gauge of public sentiment toward his administration and will serve as a sort of report card of his governance to Beijing.

It’s also the month when CY Leung himself is expected to announce his decision if he will run for a second term.

As you will recall, the then chief secretary Henry Tang quit his post at the end of September 2011 to declare his intention to run for chief executive.

At this moment it is anybody’s guess if Lam would like to throw her hat into the ring.

She had been dismissing speculation about her intention to run for the top job, citing family concerns, until two months ago when she finally told reporters to “wait and see”.

Meanwhile, she has been making high-profile statements about the Link REIT and medical reform, which could only be seen as testing the political waters.

Former legislator Ronny Tong said he recently invited Lam for a talk and Lam insisted on making a Powerpoint presentation, which is meant to show that she indeed has something to say.

Lam’s participation would certainly make the chief executive race more interesting.

Her subordinate, the Financial Secretary John Tsang, is quite popular among the people, but somehow his appeal may be diminished if Lam is also in the race.

Arguably, Lam has the upper hand over Tsang in the same way that Leung has an edge over her.

She also has a longer service record, and a more commanding support from the administration.

The catch is this: it is rather highly unlikely that both Lam and Tsang will join the race.

But since we have not reached that critical point yet, both Lam and Tsang will continue to be considered as likely contenders.

But guess who wants to see them fighting against each other?

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EJ Insight writer

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