Date
22 September 2019
There is talk that Labor and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong is considering reaching out to the pro-establishment camp amid a controversy over rule change to an elderly social benefits scheme. Photo: CNSA
There is talk that Labor and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong is considering reaching out to the pro-establishment camp amid a controversy over rule change to an elderly social benefits scheme. Photo: CNSA

In negotiations with lawmakers, govt needs to be even-handed

During the question time in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she remembers the words spoken by the head of an international organization at the World Economic Forum in Davos on the need for political leaders to remain humble and ditch elitism.

Indeed, throughout the entire half-an-hour question-and-answer session, Lam showed considerable restraint, and didn’t engage in bitter war of words with opposition lawmakers like she always did before.

Some in the government have described Lam as being very inclusive.

Nevertheless, some pan-democratic lawmakers have cast doubts on the sincerity of Lam’s “confession”, saying it is action that matters, not words, when it comes to being humble as a political leader.

The fact that Lam, after she had been criticized by both pan-democrats and pro-establishment lawmakers over raising the age bar for elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme applicants, only approached pro-establishment lawmakers to put out feelers and mend fences, but not with the pan-dems, has raised concern that the administration might be returning to its previous line of “favoritism”.

However, some members of the pro-Beijing camp quickly rallied to Lam’s defense, saying the chief executive is justified in giving priority to them, because, after all, they are the true supporters of the government.

Such argument was also echoed by some in the administration. Yet, the government sources reiterated that Lam will continue to communicate with the pro-democracy camp. For instance, they pointed out, she already met with the pan-dems to discuss the same matter on Monday this week.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, who was also caught in the firing line over the recent CSSA controversy, is considering reaching out to the pro-establishment camp later in order to enhance their mutual exchanges.

Others in the government noted that on Monday at the meeting of the Legco panel on welfare services, Law was grilled and lambasted intensely by pro-Beijing lawmakers, with one legislator accusing the minister of lacking in empathy with the underprivileged in society.

Intriguingly, the pan-dems didn’t make any personal attacks against Law, although they lashed out at Law for raising the age bar for elderly CSSA Scheme applicants.

Before joining the government, Law, as a matter of fact, had been a core member of the Democratic Party and a former pro-democracy lawmaker. 

As for his relations with the establishment camp, Law’s character trait of being blunt and straightforward has sometimes landed him in controversy.

For the sake of smooth governance, Law may need to adjust his way of expressing his views in order to get closer with the pro-establishment camp.

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

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.