'ABC' now means Anyone But Carrie

December 22, 2016 12:48
The 'ABC' campaign remains in play, but with Carrie Lam (pictured here) as the new target instead of CY Leung. Photo: HKEJ

The chief executive race is on but Leung Chun-ying's sudden cold feet – for whatever reasons -- has set Hong Kong people in a guessing game as to what lies ahead for the city.

While citizens can only wait and watch, there are hopes that the next administration could perhaps be better than the outgoing one and help resolve some critical issues.

But sadly, such expectations may be premature.

Now, we have the prospect of a Leung loyalist jumping into the CE race and possibly take the city's reins next year.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who has said earlier that she intends to opt for retirement, apparently changed her mind a day after Leung's sudden announcement.

Leung's top official said she needs to "reconsider" her retirement decision since the circumstances have changed and her boss has decided not to seek a fresh term.

Well, this is not entirely unsurprising as we have seen quite a few flip-flops before from the top officials in the current regime.

Remember how Leung said in the past that he won't run for the chief executive job under any circumstances? He also told the media back then he would never send his kids overseas for education. But the truth is that his three children all graduated from universities in the UK.

Now, coming to Lam's U-turn, the excuse for that is "Hong Kong's overall interest", according to the No. 2 official, known for her eloquence, or rather, glib tongue, in the past four years as Leung’s deputy.

"It's not a matter of my personal reputation if someone says I go back on my own words," said Lam.

Seriously? Are we really going to see such a genuinely selfless figure?

I can only marvel at Lam's masterful feat, in front of cameras, as she sought to explain her volte-face with a self-righteous air.

Yet, her eyes gave her away: she stared blankly while making the statement, and we wonder if she herself believes her own words.

At a forum less than two months ago, an emotional Lam volunteered to share her wishes for Hong Kong – "some sincere words of advice from an outgoing official", as she put it.

Pointing to the current impasse in the city, Lam said the situation makes her "lose heart". The words led people to believe that she is so disheartened that she wouldn't want to remain in politics.

But Lam now seems to have regained her heart after Leung said he will not seek re-election.

When she pays a visit to Beijing later this week, I'm sure she will make her intentions clear about her interest for Hong Kong's top job. 

Lam told the media that a vital determinant for a possible CE bid would be "whether the chief executive's governing vision … as well as his policies could be sustained".

Her televised remarks sent a chill down my spine. She has just declared that she will carry on with her boss's "legacies" even as Hong Kong is almost in a shambles thanks to the Leung administration.

Don't forget how Lam directed sham public consultations on constitutional reform or how she treated Hongkongers' aspiration for democracy with utmost contempt.

She is almost indistinguishable when compared with the worst features of Leung. Lam is partly to blame for the plight we all face today.

It's not that the chief secretary is not aware of Hong Kong people's grievances. It's just that the considerations will matter little as she seeks to climb to the very top. Sticking to the old path is the safest way to display her loyalty and score brownie points with Beijing.

Yet, given her boss's sudden downfall, Lam has to be cautious not to overdo her bid as the masters in Zhongnanhai can easily cast her out as well.

In March, the 325 non-establishment voters in the Election Committee might vote in unison. The crucial minority can play a kingmaker if there are just two to three candidates.

The ABC theme could remain in play even after Leung's pullout. Rather than "Anyone But CY", it will now be "Anyone But Carrie".

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 20.

Translation by Frank Chen with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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It's widely believed that Lam's trip to Beijing for a cultural function this week is part of a plan to secure approval for her CE election bid. Photo: HKEJ

A famous Hong Kong writer; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal