Wanted: people with the talent and vision to transform Hong Kong
Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has spoken of the difficulty she has putting her cabinet together, but the message must go out that the city needs the best people for the job
Imagine what an advertisement for a place in the new chief executive’s cabinet might say. “Highly talented self-starter needed to help run politically divided city. Expectations are high, but getting things done will be difficult. Expect public criticism and media exposés of your private life – and probably less pay.” It could read something like that. No wonder Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has spoken publicly of the problems she faces putting a team together.
As Lam sets off on her first official trip to Beijing as chief executive-elect, the appointment of her ministers is likely to be at the forefront of her mind. The choice will have a significant impact on her ability to see through her policy objectives. Lam has declared she intends to be inclusive and to make decisions based on merit. That is a good start. But the process is complex. Under the Basic Law, the chief executive nominates candidates for ministerial positions, and they are then appointed by Beijing. The central government, therefore, has an interest in who is chosen.
Much was made during the election campaign of the fact that Lam is the candidate trusted by Beijing. It is to be hoped that this will result in the chief executive-elect being given sufficient room to select her own team. Lam must explain her vision and thoughts clearly to the central government so that officials understand why she prefers one candidate over another. She must also be careful to choose people who are capable and have performed well, rather than opting for those she believes are likely to readily agree with her.
Lam has also expressed a desire to include democrats in her cabinet. Such a move could help bring about a more harmonious relationship with the Legislative Council, although it would be no panacea. The Democratic Party requires members to leave the party if they intend to join the government. Beijing may also have doubts. The democrats should be open to working with Lam. One option, outside of the cabinet, is for them to be given positions in the many committees and bodies which play an important part in governance at a lower level.
Lam has pointed to the “hot kitchen” of government as a factor which is deterring good candidates from joining her cabinet. And some incumbent officials are planning to leave. That is to be expected when a new chief executive, with a different style, takes over. But the message needs to go out to suitable candidates that your city needs you. There is so much that must be done, in a wide variety of policy areas. We have the talent, but now need people with the courage to step forward and serve their city and country.
That job advertisement might also read: Unrivalled opportunity to transform Hong Kong, provide the city with a better future, help it move on from troubled times and take your place in history.