Carrie Lam will get nowhere unless Beijing drops its hardline stance on Hong Kong
Former Democratic Party leader Emily Lau says the city’s next leader must persuade the central government to respect the views of Hongkongers
The charade that is called the Hong Kong chief executive election came to a close on Sunday when the former chief secretary Carrie Lam won by securing 777 votes, defeating her main rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, who received 365 votes. The third candidate, former judge Woo Kwok-hing, got only 21 votes.
To the over seven million people in Hong Kong, the process was nothing but a joke because most of them had no say. Only 1,194 members of the Election Committee could vote, and these privileged few were elected by a quarter of a million people drawn from the commercial, political and professional elite.
However, it was not for the Election Committee members to decide who could be chief executive, as Beijing insisted on having the final say. Therefore the so-called electoral process was just a smoke screen for Beijing’s appointment.
Although Mrs Lam won the election, she lost heavily to Mr Tsang in the popularity contest. This was mainly due to mistakes she made during the election campaign and because mainland officials had lobbied furiously on her behalf, using thuggish methods to intimidate and bully some Election Committee members into supporting her.
Such coercive methods angered and upset many Hong Kong people, who failed to understand why the central government could not allow the three candidates, who are all from the pro-establishment camp, to fight it out.
According to the Basic Law, whoever wins the election can only become chief executive if he or she is appointed by Beijing. But obviously that is not enough. Beijing has to intervene from beginning to end, thus turning the electoral process into a farce.
It is not right to say that many Hong Kong people are against most things proposed by the central government, but it is true that they do not want Beijing to interfere in our internal affairs, because it undermines Beijing’s policy of “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. When I met the chair of the National People’s Congress, Zhang Dejiang, on May 18 last year, I told him that in no uncertain terms.
Speaking on my online TV programme a few weeks ago, Mrs Lam said she would emulate me and try to work with different political parties in the Legislative Council if she won the election, and she repeated this point in her victory speech yesterday.
She also said she saw her own inadequacies and said her actions in the coming weeks and months would prove whether she was determined to heal the city’s rift and lead an inclusive and consensual government.
To do that, Mrs Lam will need Beijing’s consent and support. It is clear that up to now, Beijing’s policy is to sideline and marginalise the pro-democracy camp. Without a change in policy, the Hong Kong government and Mrs Lam will be unable to do much.
But Mrs Lam should understand it is her duty to convey Hong Kong people’s desires and aspirations to the central government and persuade the leaders in Beijing to respect our views.
However, if the central government has other priorities and insists on pursuing a hardline policy on Hong Kong, then we can only look forward to another five years of nightmare and aggravation. And Beijing should know that such a scenario would be bad for Hong Kong and bad for China.
Emily Lau Wai-hing is former chairperson of the Democratic Party