23 February 2019
Whether Carrie Lam can cast off her predecessor’s confrontational governing style holds the key to  mending divisions in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
Whether Carrie Lam can cast off her predecessor’s confrontational governing style holds the key to mending divisions in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

What to expect from Carrie Lam and the next administration

The 2017 chief executive election ended with an anticlimax: the highly popular former financial secretary John Tsang lost by a huge margin, whereas former chief secretary Carrie Lam, who had been lagging behind Tsang in every major poll prior to the election, swept to an easy victory, thanks to the relentless manipulation of Beijing.

If anything, the fact that a candidate who was far less popular than her major opponent could still win by a significant margin highlights the absurdity and abnormality of our small-circle CE election.

And I believe Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam herself must be well aware of her built-in weakness, which is her low credibility, because she was not elected through a genuine election.

However, no matter how disappointed and frustrated we might be with the election result, it is a harsh reality with which every one of us has to come to terms. It is time for us to move on and figure out the answer to a major question before us: What can we expect from the new CE and her new administration in the next five years?

There may be a lot of things on our list of expectations, but for most of our fellow citizens, mending fences and restoring harmony to society are undoubtedly on top of the list.

In fact, all three CE candidates vowed throughout their campaign to repair relations and heal the wounds in our society, which has become so divided and polarized over the past five years under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. However, the question is, how should we get started in addressing this fundamental issue?

One good way to start is for the incoming administration to extend the olive branch to Legco in order to repair relations between the executive branch and the legislature.

After all, half of our legislative councilors have been elected with a clear public mandate through popular elections, and therefore, to a considerable extent, the views of our popularly elected lawmakers are an accurate reflection of public opinion.

Among our popularly elected legislative councilors are pro-democracy lawmakers who got more than 50 percent of the total votes in the last Legco elections. As such, the degree to which the incoming administration is willing to improve its relations with the pro-democracy camp in Legco can be seen as an indication of how sincere our new CE is when it comes to seeking reconciliation.

Given the fact that the the popularly elected legislature has a constitutional duty to provide vigorous and unflinching oversight of the government, it’s not unusual for the executive and the legislative branches to be at odds with each other over various issues.

The rock-bottom relations between Legco and the government over the past several years stem largely from Leung’s belligerent and confrontational style of governance.

And to a certain degree, Carrie Lam, too, should be held accountable for the poor relations between Legco and the administration because during her term in office as chief secretary, she was standing by her immediate superior all along without ever questioning his unnecessary hostility toward pro-democracy lawmakers.

Now that Lam is set to govern as the new CE, I sincerely hope that she can truly deliver her election promise of introducing a new governing style to the next administration by casting off Leung’s shadow and taking the initiative in repairing relations with the pro-democracy camp, so that she can prove to the public that she is not CY 2.0.

Last but not least, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to democracy-loving voters for their support of pro-democracy candidates in the Election Committee election in December, without which our coalition “Democracy 300+” would never have managed to win such an unprecedented number of seats.

Also, I would like to thank Woo Kwok-hing for presenting his unique election platform. I would also like to give thanks to John Tsang, who managed to somewhat unite people across the political spectrum and showed us that with the right leader, the divisions in our society can be healed.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 31

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legco member representing the Legal functional constituency (2012-2016) and a founding member of Civic Party

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