Regina Ip pledges loyalty to C.Y. and Carrie Lam in Exco
Former rival says city's government is 'the weakest in history' but that the chief executive can count on her best advice to make it work
The government's ministerial team is "the weakest in Hong Kong's history" but the Executive Council will be well positioned to help it formulate policies that will win public support, according to new Exco member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
Ip, a former chief executive candidate, said that as an Exco member she would work with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and advise him on how to be more politically sensitive.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post - in her first interview with an English-language newspaper since her appointment to Exco this month - Ip also dismissed concerns of rivalry on the council between herself, Leung and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Leung's most senior official.
In September, Ip suggested Lam had tried to salvage her declining popularity by breaking down in tears on television and said that Lam's credibility had suffered in the administration that took office on July 1. Despite these remarks, Ip - believed by many analysts to be a likely contender for chief executive in 2017 - said there would not be any rivalry among the three on Exco.
"We all have different roles to play. C. Y. plays the role of [chief executive], Mrs Lam, being [chief secretary], is tasked to assist him, and me, being a member of Exco, my constitutional role is to give him sound advice, the best advice that I see fit," said Ip, a lawmaker and chairwoman of the New People's Party.
One of the most important issues facing Leung's administration was the lack of experienced civil servants to help with policy matters, she said.
"In terms of experience and expertise … [Leung's ministerial team] is the weakest in the history of Hong Kong," Ip said, speaking in English. "There are only a handful of experienced officials who can provide continuity … and it is these experienced [administrative officers], experienced civil servants who perform better than newcomers because they have a known track record."
Ip's appointment to Exco on October 17, along with functional constituency lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, took its membership to 31. In addition to the 16 non-official members (who include Ip and Jeffrey Lam), it includes the three senior principal officials (the chief, finance and justice secretaries) and 12 principal officials, or ministers.
Ip identified Leung's three key challenges as the public's negative perception of him, a weak ministerial team and problems inherited from his predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, such as shortages in housing and land.
She believed that while it would take time to deal with the deep-rooted problems, Leung should nevertheless tackle his public image first.
"It is a matter of perception that [Leung] seems to be too 'red', or pro-mainland, and actually there is a lot more he can do. [For example] by adjusting his image [and] avoiding doing things like calling on the [central government's] liaison office immediately after [his] election [as chief executive] … he could be more politically sensitive."
In February, Ip declared her bid to run for chief executive but dropped out less than two weeks later, after she failed to secure the minimum 150 nominations required to file a bid with the Election Committee, which later chose Leung as chief executive.