18 March 2019
Carrie Lam has a record of going back on her words and skipping standard consultation procedures, critics say. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam has a record of going back on her words and skipping standard consultation procedures, critics say. Photo: HKEJ

Carrie Lam: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

At first glance, December 9, 2016 was a very exciting and uplifting day for the people of Hong Kong, as it was on that day Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced that he will not seek a second term. Many believed his decision not to run for re-election would finally mark the end of the political turmoil, chaos and social confrontation in the city

Unfortunately, that excitement and joyfulness turned out to be short-lived, as Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has announced that she will be joining the upcoming CE election.

The reason I say so is because Lam is just as relentless, heavy-handed, hard-line and ruthless as Leung, and in some respects she even outstrips her boss, especially when it comes to kissing up to Beijing and bending the rules.

Suffice it to say that Lam is an upgraded version of CY Leung, and might turn out to be an even worse autocrat than the incumbent leader once she gets elected.

I believe both Lam and Leung are politicians with absolutely no integrity and trustworthiness. One might still recall that one year ago, Lam repeatedly asserted in no uncertain terms that she had no intention whatsoever of seeking higher public office, and that she would retire from public life altogether after she serves out her term as chief secretary.

However, as we have seen, just one day after Leung declared that he would not seek re-election, Lam suddenly announced that she felt compelled to reconsider her decision since “events have taken a drastic turn”.

Her blatant about-face was strongly reminiscent of what Leung did after the handover, when he reiterated in front of the media that he would never run for CE. As we can tell, they are both so accustomed to going back on their words, which speaks volumes about their lack of integrity as political leaders.

Meanwhile, Leung and Lam also share a common gift: they are both good at putting a spin when it comes to their mistakes and explaining away their bad decisions.

While Leung’s talent for talking his way out on various issues has been proven over the past four and a half years, the recent Palace Museum saga has served as a testimony to how good Lam is at downplaying her own bad decisions and justifying her own mistakes.

For instance, when asked why she didn’t consult either the Legco or the public over the multibillion-dollar museum project before giving it the green light, all she said was that the reason why she had skipped standard consultation procedure was because she wanted to avoid causing any embarrassment to the central authorities.

In the meantime, there is also one other thing in common between Lam and Leung: both of them are so eager to kiss up to Beijing, and would go to any lengths to pledge allegiance to their bosses in the Chinese capital.

For example, in order to toe Beijing’s line on cracking down on separatism in Hong Kong, Leung went to great lengths to please his bosses by filing judicial review applications with the High Court against the legitimacy of four localist lawmakers who had been rightfully elected to our legislature.

Likewise, in order to make sure the Palace Museum, a project ordered by Beijing to celebrate the silver jubilee of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland, will be finished on schedule, Lam simply bypassed the Legco as well as the public and pressed ahead with the project with utmost secrecy so as to minimize obstacles and opposition.

Lam has a definite advantage over Leung: having spent 36 years in the civil service, she knows how the government bureaucracy works and how public policies are formulated backwards, whereas Leung hadn’t spent a day in the civil service before he became chief executive.

Such “extraordinary” quality allows Lam to know how to skillfully bypass due process and public oversight, as well as skip standard consultation procedures when it comes to pressing ahead with her policy initiatives.

If Lam is elected the next CE, the people of Hong Kong can expect at least five more years of political turmoil and polarization.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 16

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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