Carrie Lam’s success depends on recognition of common interests

The interests of Beijing and Hong Kong need not be in conflict so long as both sides adhere to the Basic Law and the ‘one country, two systems’ formula

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 4:41am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 4:41am

Having won the chief executive election with a relatively high margin, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is wasting no time gearing up for the challenges ahead. From meeting the heads of Hong Kong and mainland authorities to reaching out to the public, and from picking her new team to defining her governance style, Lam has a lot on her plate. Relations between Beijing and Hong Kong stand out as a key challenge. Constitutionally, the chief executive is accountable to the central government and Hong Kong. That means Lam will be walking a tightrope, with Beijing’s expectations on one side and the aspirations of the local public on the other. The balancing act has become even more difficult in recent years.

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Internally, the political landscape has become more polarised. Externally, tensions with the mainland and the central government continue to spiral.

Experience over the past two decades has shown that the chief executive cannot do a good job without the support of both Beijing and Hongkongers. Lam clearly has support from the former. Her relatively high vote count – she won 777 of out of the 1,163 valid ballots cast by the Election Committee – also means she enjoys greater support from the pro-establishment camp than her predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, who secured only 689 votes in 2012. But on gaining popular support, Lam has much work to do.

While Beijing’s trust is important, Lam needs to prove herself worthy of the support of the local people. Responding to claims that Beijing is interfering in local affairs, Lam said there was no need for the central government’s liaison office here to be worried about what falls within the city’s high degree of autonomy. She also said the office’s lobbying for her in the election race had created a negative perception. Credit goes to Lam for bringing up the issues of concern during her meeting with the liaison office on Wednesday.

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The office agreed that issues concerning the executive branch and the legislature should be handled by the local government, according to Lam. She also met the heads of the People’s Liberation Army and the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

Lam should make use of Beijing's trust to build a new working relationship with the central government’s representatives here.

According to a Xinhua report, liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) said the office would continue to support the chief executive and the administration to govern in line with the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” formula. The interests of Beijing and the city need not be in conflict. We share the goal of maintaining Hong Kong's success as a special administrative region of China. Strict adherence to the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle is in the best interests of both sides.