Although Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam has told the media that she has been “making good progress” in putting together her new cabinet, recent reports suggested quite the opposite.
Rumors have it that while Lam is determined to replace a substantial number of incumbent bureau chiefs, she has encountered great difficulties trying to persuade some of her preferred candidates to join the government.
For example, it is said that both Peter Wong, deputy chairman of the HSBC Group and senior barrister Teresa Cheng, have declined Lam’s offer of key positions on her cabinet.
While Carrie Lam has been tearing her hair out over the past couple of months trying to recruit her cabinet members, she has been also busy mending fences and repairing relations with Legco. Lately, she invited members of key political parties to tea to exchange opinions on various issues.
Everybody knows that Carrie Lam is an old-school bureaucrat that is not into schmoozing and socializing. However, in order to win over both the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps in Legco, she will have to do it regularly in the days ahead, whether she likes it or not.
For example, after having met with key members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions, her two most steadfast allies, Lam finally reached out to the Liberal Party and invited key members to meet with her at the Chief Executive-elect’s Office last week.
It is an open secret that Carrie Lam and the Liberals have bad blood. And their conflict reached boiling point during the CE election in March when the chairman of the Liberal Party, James Tien, and party whip Felix Chung publicly supported former financial secretary John Tsang and refused to fall into line behind Lam despite the arm-twisting by Beijing’s Liaison Office.
The fact that Carrie Lam has taken the initiative and extended the olive branch to the Liberal Party indicates that she is determined to seek reconciliation with her former political opponents in order to secure support in Legco.
And Lam’s goodwill gesture did seem to have worked on the Liberals. After their meeting, Felix Chung told reporters that they had put their differences aside and praised Lam for her commitment to bringing about change and restoring harmony to society.
However, in contrast, the pan-democrats seem to have given Lam the cold shoulder, not least because they might be worried that getting too close with Lam at this stage could risk alienating their traditional supporters and they might also think that it is premature to align themselves with Lam before they find out exactly how much space she will be allowed by Beijing in fulfilling her office as CE after July 1.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 9
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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