As Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor prepares to take office, there has been much talk recently in political circles that she is awaiting Beijing’s approval on her list of choices for her new Cabinet.
Among the candidates, Law Chi-kwong of the Democratic Party, who has been widely tipped as the next Secretary for Labor and Welfare following Lam’s election win, has remained tight-lipped both in front of journalists and within his own party as to whether he will really join the new government.
Some suspect the reason why he is remaining evasive about the issue is because Beijing still has not given the green light for his appointment. That said, the observers are quite optimistic that the uncertainty over Law’s appointment is going to clear quite soon.
While Law is unwilling to talk about his future career, his party chairman Wu Chi-wai has already made it crystal clear on several public occasions that if Law intends to join the next government as a bureau chief, he will have to quit the Democratic Party.
It is because there is a long-standing consensus within the party that no Democrat should join the SAR government as a politically accountable official until there is universal suffrage in the city. And the party leadership has also decided that it wouldn’t make an exception for Law this time if he really intends to join the incoming Lam administration.
However, it is believed that if Law eventually chooses to join the government and quit the Democratic Party, it is likely that he will be spared the standard procedure of departure which would otherwise be applicable to other ordinary members, and the party leadership is likely to quickly approve his resignation.
All Law needs to do, some Democrats joked, is perhaps send a WhatsApp message to his party chairman telling him he is going to quit.
Lam, during her election campaign, has vowed to introduce new mindset and new governing style to her administration, but it appears old faces are going to dominate her new cabinet.
Worse still, even if Beijing finally gives Law the green light, there will only be just one member from the pan-democratic camp in her cabinet, as compared to two under Leung Chun-ying, i.e. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai.
Rumors have it that the reason for such regression is because Beijing’s attitude towards the pan-democrats has changed fundamentally after the Occupy Movement, and the central leaders have become much more vigilant and suspicious about the groups.
It is said that Beijing has laid down two red lines when it comes to Lam’s choices for bureau chiefs, which are: 1. only moderate members of the Democratic Party can be considered, and 2. the candidates should not have any links with the Occupy Movement.
Given these two absolute conditions, Lam actually doesn’t have too many people to choose from.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 1
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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