Carrie Lam is now on life support

June 19, 2019 14:44
Carrie Lam has apologized for her handling of the extradition bill issue, but that wasn’t enough to quell the anger of many citizens. Photo: HKEJ

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor finally appeared before the media in person to speak about the extradition bill controversy.

“The concerns over the past few months have been caused by deficiencies in the work of the SAR (Special Administrative Region) Government over the amendment exercise. I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility,” Lam said.

“This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society. For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” she said.

However, she did not say anything about full withdrawal of the bill, rather than just suspending the legislative push.

Lam's public appearance and apology hasn't eased the anger of the extradition bill protesters, who are calling for total withdrawal of the plan and also Lam’s resignation, among other demands.

Lam's heavy-handed approach on the bill prompted nearly two million people, going by the estimate of the event organizer, to come onto the streets last Sunday for a protest march.

The extradition bill controversy, the massive demonstrations against it and the clashes between protesters and the police have grabbed headlines around the world.

One might remember that after Lam took office as chief executive in July 2017, she was often praised for having got off to a good start.

However, since the beginning of this year, the administration appears to have run out of luck rapidly, with the government suffering policy setbacks one after the other, such as those related to the Old Age Living Allowance and a cross-harbor tunnel tolls plan.

Lam's decision to press ahead with the extradition law changes regardless of public outcry and the grave concerns among the business and professional sectors has proven to be her undoing.

On Monday, Lam spent the entire day meeting with Executive Councilors, as well as members of the local education and religious sectors, at her official residence.

According to some attendees, the chief executive seemed to have had a bad night’s sleep, and looked tired and exhausted.

They also said the chief executive couldn’t help but appear a bit unsettled and emotional when she talked about the law revision, reiterating that the law amendments were proposed out of good intentions in the first place.

Yet the problem is, policy initiatives based on good original purposes can often end up becoming a disaster if executed badly.

In particular, Lam’s perceived arrogance has emerged as a big fatal flaw.

A source in the political circles has noted that Lam, who came to the chief executive office as a high-ranking and seasoned bureaucrat, does not seem to understand the fact that getting legislation passed is not always easy.

The political figure, as well as another government source, however, believe Lam isn’t going to step down, because the final word on whether or not she should go rests not with Lam herself, but with Beijing.

Now, even though Lam may be able to hang on to her job, it doesn’t take a political expert to figure out that she will have a very tough time in the remaining three years of her term in office.

This is an updated version of a column that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 18

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.