Carrie Lam praises disgraced minister's dedication
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterated her support for disgraced former development minister Mak Chai-kwong, as Leung Chun-ying's team continued to brave questions about their policies and integrity during the third and final round of town-hall sessions yesterday.
Commenting for the first time since Mak was released by the Independent Commission Against Corruption after two days of questioning over possible abuse of a civil service rent subsidy scheme, Lam commended her former colleague's devotion to serving Hongkongers.
The move, coupled with another minister setting out a timeframe for a boosted monthly allowance of HK$2,200 to the elderly in need, was seen as an effort to halt the recently installed Leung administration's plunging popularity.
Lam said during her visit to Tsuen Wan: 'The only reason for him [Mak], as a retired civil servant who had served the public for 37 years, to go back into the 'hot kitchen' - a really hot one - was to dedicate more to the people of Hong Kong. This deserves my recognition of his spirit of serving the public.'
Lam said 'Mak's dedication is undoubted' and that was why she trusted him. She refused to say whether she had put her trust in the wrong person.
She expressed the hope that the press and the public would give Mak and his wife some space to deal with the matter of the ICAC investigation.
Meanwhile, during his visit to Yuen Long, Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung pledged that the special Old Age Allowance would be implemented in the first quarter of next year at the latest.
Under Leung's election pledges, those aged at least 65 in dire need will see their allowance more than doubled to HK$2,200 a month, while those in less pressing need will still receive HK$1,090 a month.
The question of who would replace Mak was raised during Leung's visit to Sham Shui Po, where he said he was looking for the right calibre of person to fill the post and would complete it as soon as possible.
Asked if he feared that no one might dare to join his cabinet now, Leung replied: 'I hope people in the community will give more room and time to the new cabinet of the SAR government.'
Leung was also bombarded with questions about the illegal structures at his home and his integrity.
Once again he apologised 'for my grave negligence. I will explain it to the public at an appropriate time'.
Wrapping up his three-week round of visits in Sha Tin, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who has taken up Mak's duties, said he hoped the chief executive could find a suitable candidate to fill the post soon and he did not think it would be a challenge for Leung.
Speaking on a TVB programme, Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing said he was not preparing to be a back-up chief executive and was unconvinced by rumours that Beijing wanted to replace Leung.
'If there is any message ... making people reasonably believe that the central government is considering to replace [the chief executive] and will not wait until five years later, people will become more disunited and the governance of the SAR administration will get even harder. So the central government is definitely not going to do that,' Tsang said.
On radio, Executive Council member Cheng Yiu-tong said he doubted rumours that Leung would be replaced within his first 100 days.