The weight of expectation is on Carrie Lam’s shoulders

She has to defend the interests of the nation and the city, improve people’s livelihoods and complement national development. This will not be easy, but she has full support from Beijing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 4:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 4:34am

The formal appointment of the city’s chief executive by the central government is more than a ritual, as reflected in the state leaders’ meetings with Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. While it is a conferment of authority and an act of trust in the new chief executive, it also comes with the weight of Beijing’s expectations for Hong Kong in the next five years. That Lam was showered with praise for her ability and experience in public governance is to be expected.

Xi Jinping reminds Carrie Lam of need to solve conflicts

But President Xi Jinping also made no bones about the difficulties she faces. In a candid diagnosis of the city’s ills, Xi said some long-standing conflicts and problems had gradually been exposed in recent years. While there were challenges and risks, there were also opportunities. As the new chief executive, Lam had great responsibility, he said.

Xi must have high expectations that Lam can tackle such problems. He commended her as responsible, and capable of controlling complicated situations. He reiterated that the central government would fully support her and her administration. The policy of “one country, two systems”, a high degree of autonomy and Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong would remain unchanged, he added.

Concerns have been raised after references to democratic development were absent from state leaders’ opening remarks. This is not surprising, given Beijing is not expected to change the framework on universal suffrage laid down by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in 2014. Lam and Beijing apparently want to deliver on other fronts first, such as improving people’s livelihoods and healing social divides.

Important as it is, democracy cannot be achieved overnight. The 2014 episode proved that our universal suffrage goal cannot be attained without compromise. We are likely to run into another deadlock if people continue to object to the arrangements.

Torn between two sides, Carrie Lam’s delicate task is to satisfy both

Lam said she had reflected people’s views on the framework. Whether this paves the way for further development remains unclear, but she is to be commended for speaking up for the people. As the chief executive, she is expected to foster mutual understanding between Beijing and the city.

On her shoulders are not just the aspirations of 7.3 million Hongkongers, but also the central government’s expectations. She has to defend both the interests of the nation and the city under “one country, two systems”, she must also improve the economy and people’s livelihoods while complementing national development.

This will not be easy. But she has full support from Beijing in her work and, hopefully, from the people of Hong Kong as well.