After attending a Legco Q&A session for the first time in her capacity as the Chief Executive last week, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor once again set foot in the legislature building on Sunday to attend an official luncheon with lawmakers arranged by the Legco secretariat.
During the event, Lam, apart from receiving a petition from the pan-democrats, drinking champagne and schmoozing with lawmakers from across the political spectrum, eagerly took a group photo with all the lawmakers who were present and then posted it on her Facebook page afterwards.
Taking pictures with lawmakers might seem insignificant, but we can say that the activity, to a certain extent, represents an indication of the status of relations between the CE and Legco.
In November last year, during a similar occasion, former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying declined to take a group photo with lawmakers.
Rumors had it that he didn’t want pictures because he wanted to avoid being caught on camera with some localist lawmakers who were awaiting court hearings over judicial review applications filed by the Justice Department to seek their disqualification over alleged breach of the Basic Law.
In fact not only CY Leung, but also some of his chief officials, were demonstrating open hostility towards the localist lawmakers. For instance, while Paul Chan Mo-po, the then Secretary for Development, stressed during a meeting that his act of answering their questions shouldn’t be interpreted as a subtle recognition of their lawmaker status by the government, former Financial Secretary John Tsang simply refused to reply to their questions, resulting in a backlash among the pan-democrats.
As far as the new CE Lam is concerned, ever since she was sworn into office on July 1, she has come across as being respectful towards the legislature. Moreover, last week she also said that she would continue to respect and acknowledge the lawmaker status of those who are facing possible disqualification unless the court eventually rules against them.
During the luncheon on Sunday, Lam didn’t try to avoid radical lawmakers such as Leung Kwok-hung.
Whatever the reason for her show of goodwill, there is one thing we can be certain: almost two weeks into her office the relations between the executive branch and the legislature have improved substantially, a trend that is welcomed by all political parties.
The improving relationship between the government and Legco under Lam reminds us of how things went wrong under her predecessor. Unnecessary hostility and knee-jerk confrontational attitude from government officials, which were almost a routine while Leung was in office, only undermines governance efficiency. In the end, everybody would be a loser.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 11
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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