Date
19 October 2017
Carrie Lam has vowed to address concerns of young people over, education, job prospects and housing. But her real challenge may be answering their aspirations for democracy. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam has vowed to address concerns of young people over, education, job prospects and housing. But her real challenge may be answering their aspirations for democracy. Photo: HKEJ

New CE must reach out to friends and foes alike

The chief executive race has entered the home stretch, and former chief secretary Carrie Lam, former financial secretary John Tsang and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing will be officially competing with one another for Hong Kong’s top job.

Having managed to gain the endorsement of a whopping 579 Election Committee members, Carrie Lam is obviously in the lead by a huge margin over Tsang and Woo.

However, it is too early to say Lam’s victory is a foregone conclusion. There are more than 270 Election Committee members who have refrained from nominating anyone.

Among them is business tycoon Li Ka-shing, who said he decided not to nominate anyone because he had personally known each of them for so long that he didn’t want to upset the other candidates by endorsing any particular one.

These 270 undecided voters, or voters who prefer to keep their own counsel, could indeed turn out to be a decisive force that could influence the outcome of the election, and nobody, not even Beijing, can afford to ignore them.

While Lam’s supporters predominantly came from the pro-establishment camp and the business sector, and Woo relied entirely on the pan-democrats, Tsang is the only candidate who was able to gain support from both the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps.

No matter who is elected in the end, we believe it is important for the new chief executive to take the initiative and reach out to different sectors of society.

He or she must open faithful and constructive dialogue with friends and foes alike. Because if our new chief executive only relies on close allies or the inner circle for advice, it is unlikely that he or she can get a complete picture of public opinion.

In her most recent election platform, Carrie Lam vowed to restore harmony to society by facilitating young people’s participation in politics and the government’s decision-making process.

She also proposed to set up a high-level Youth Development Commission chaired by the next chief secretary to oversee youth affairs.

We believe Carrie Lam is headed in the right direction by acknowledging the importance of engaging young people in the course of improving our public governance.

However, she would probably be fighting an uphill battle in winning their hearts and minds if she is unable to reopen political reform consultation and bridge the gap between Beijing and the people of Hong Kong over universal suffrage.

Democratic values have become a key part of the aspirations of our young people. If the incoming administration is unable to deliver genuine democracy, any attempt to open dialogue with them would be an empty gesture.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 1

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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