Will Carrie Lam offer Christmas consolation to Hong Kong?

December 10, 2019 12:15
Carrie Lam speaks to the media on Nov. 26 after district council elections delivered a landslide for pro-democracy candidates. There is talk that Lam will reshuffle her cabinet as she seeks to soothe public anger and improve governance. Photo: Reuters

Christmas is about hope, peace and joy. For those of us living in Hong Kong, what can we expect as we head into the festive season? Will there be some good news at last and a chance for mitigation of the crisis?

Many people would be hoping that there would be a change in the top political leadership here. After all, it is almost a consensus among both the yellow and the blue camps that Carrie Lam's inept stewardship and poor decisions are largely to blame for the city's current troubles.

Lam resignation may not be among the "five demands" list of the protesters, but there is no doubt that most Hongkongers would be glad to see her go.

The embattled chief executive, reports suggested, had offered her resignation in the summer after the extradition bill fiasco but was told by Beijing to stay on in her post.

The Central leaders apparently had their reasons for sticking with Lam, yet there is the possibility that Beijing might grant her wish next year after a National People’s Congress session in March.

If Lam still wants to keep her job, it is quite reasonable to assume that she would reshuffle her cabinet in a bid to win back some support.

It may be good timing as the political and social situation has stabilized somewhat after the Nov. 24 district council election.

There has been chatter that Lam might replace some of her senior ministers after a trip to Beijing next week. Such announcement could be made around Christmas.

Among the first batch of potential departures would be those who figure at the bottom in public opinion polls.

Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng could be the first to face the axe, given her poor popularity and dismal track record.

As per the latest survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Cheng scored a net negative 68 percentage points in a popularity poll, coming in next only to that of her boss Lam, who secured negative 71 percentage points, an all-time low for any chief executive.

Cheng, who was injured during a protest in Britain last month, denied a media report that said she wanted to remain in London and resign from her post until she was ordered home by Beijing.

Incidentally her husband Otto Poon’s Analogue Holdings, an engineering services contractor, was under investigation by the Competition Commission for tender collusion last week just before her return to Hong Kong.

Next on the likely departures list from Lam's cabinet would be Security Secretary John Lee, who scored a negative 63 percent in the opinion poll. Lee was said to be a key person who had advised Lam that Hong Kong should amend the fugitive law, which led to the six-month protests.

Home Affairs Bureau chief Lau Kwong-wah (negative 49 percent score), Education Secretary Kevin Yeung (-48) and Financial Secretary Paul Chan (-40) rounded off the list of least popular ministers in the poll.

A reboot in governance is long overdue, and Hong Kong people are hoping there would be a reshuffle at the top.

That would provide some consolation and cheer during the holiday season, even though the relief may only prove temporary.

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EJ Insight writer