23 October 2018
In her acceptance speech after Sunday's election, CE-elect Carrie Lam said she is ready to begin a new journey with fellow citizens 'with a humble heart'. Photo: HKEJ
In her acceptance speech after Sunday's election, CE-elect Carrie Lam said she is ready to begin a new journey with fellow citizens 'with a humble heart'. Photo: HKEJ

Carrie Lam’s real challenge has only just begun

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is set to become Hong Kong’s first female chief executive after she won 777 votes in Sunday’s election, an event that will open a new chapter for herself as well as our city.

John Tsang Chun-wah, who had the highest approval rating among the three CE contestants, secured 365 votes, just a few more than his base of some 300 from the pro-democracy camp.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Tsang showed courtesy and grace and urged his supporters and campaign staff to take the election result in stride.

In his concession speech, the former financial secretary said: “The reason why I pitched ‘Trust, Unity and Hope’ during my campaign is not because I needed a catchy slogan, but because I sincerely believe they are the answer to the problems our city is facing at the moment … I am convinced that Carrie shares the same view with me on that.”

Tsang added that though he may have lost the election, “Hong Kong hasn’t lost”.

Meanwhile, the other candidate who lost out in the CE race — Woo Kwok-hing — also earned wide respect, even from his opponents, following his untiring efforts and dogged perseverance during the campaign.

The 71-year-old former judge put up a brave fight even though he was well aware that the odds were stacked against him in the fight for Hong Kong’s top job.

Woo is no doubt an inspiration to everyone in this city who is committed to defending our core values, and reminds us of the most fundamental personal qualities that we should look for when it comes to choosing our political leader, which are impartiality and integrity. Woo has lost in the competition, but has won the respect of his fellow citizens.

To many, Tsang’s defeat by a huge margin may be a great disappointment. However, like he said, it is a harsh reality that his supporters have to come to terms with. And it is also time for citizens, regardless of which candidates they supported, to set aside political differences and rally behind the newly-elected chief executive to help create a better tomorrow for Hong Kong.

We believe Tsang didn’t make his appeal just out of courtesy, but out of urgent need, as our city has been torn apart by deep divisions and intense polarization over the past five years so much so they are shredding the fabric of the society. Only by mending fences and restoring unity to our society as soon as possible can we reignite hope for people in the city.

Lam might have carried the day in the election, but there is still a long way to go before she can truly claim victory, as she has her work cut out in the days ahead as the chief executive.

She will have to deal with a bad start, given that she is the first CE-elect to have lower popularity among the general public than her opponents, a built-in weakness which will certainly be milked by the pan-democrats and localist groups for all it is worth in the coming days.

As such, we believe things won’t be easy for Lam after she assumes office, and the task lying before her following her inauguration could be just as daunting as what CY Leung confronted after he was sworn in on July 1 five years ago.

Now, we sincerely hope that Lam really meant it when she said in her acceptance speech on Sunday that she is ready to begin a new journey with her fellow citizens with a humble heart.

It is because Lam, who has been infamous for her take-no-prisoner and heavy-handed managing style, must learn to stay humble and be receptive to opposing views in order not to repeat the same kind of mistake she made during her handling of the controversial Forbidden City museum project in Hong Kong earlier on.

We believe that even though Lam is currently lagging behind in approval ratings compared to others such as Tsang, she still has a chance to turn things around and get back in favor with the public.

But to achieve this, she should stop being condescending and confrontational, and serve her fellow citizens while keeping their best interests at heart. 

After all, Lam was herself once considered to be the most popular chief government official. If she could pull that off in the past, there is no reason why she can’t achieve that again in the future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 27

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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