Carrie Lam

Waste of time: Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam seeks to quash speculation she wants top job

No 2 official also seeks to dismiss suggestions that she was critical of her colleague, Financial Secretary John Tsang, who may also be a candidate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 11:05pm

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Monday sought to quash speculation that she was gunning for the chief executive’s job, brushing off such talk as a waste of time as she had made her stance “crystal clear”.

Lam, however, did not spell out her stance categorically when she spoke to reporters ahead of a trip to Vietnam.

She also tried to dismiss suggestions that she was critical of her colleague, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who is also a potential candidate.

Speculation rife over Carrie Lam’s comments on Hong Kong’s public finances

She took issue in particular with a report by Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao, which quoted her as saying at a function that she “personally disagreed with” Article 107 of the Basic Law, which states the government should not spend more than it earns.

Over the weekend, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said the comment made the life of civil servants more difficult and suggested that Lam was targeting John Tsang.

On Monday, Lam insisted her comment was taken out of context and argued she was only giving an example of how not everyone agreed with every clause in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – and she was not referring to herself specifically.

At the forum last week, Lam said: “Of course, you could say there is no reason to ask for my agreement with every clause of the Basic Law. For instance, I do not agree with Article 107. What does it mean [to keep] expenditure within the limit of revenue? When you have a lot of money – when you have a surplus of HK$800 billion – then you should utilise it.”

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On Monday, Lam said: “Actually the ‘I’[in the quote] was not referring to the chief secretary. I was saying you could challenge or disagree with the Basic Law … so that ‘I’ was actually referring to another person.”

Lam lamented the misinterpretation over “such a small issue” as a reflection of a highly politicised society indulging in “too many conspiracy theories”.

The No 2 official was equally forthright in dismissing mounting speculation that she was planning to take on her current boss, Leung Chun-ying, and run for the top job next March.

“Some people have thought I am very ambitious to run for the post of chief executive ... since I made a duty visit to Sichuan in May,” she said. “But I want to tell these people that they are wasting their efforts as my stance over this issue has been crystal clear.”

Those who intended to sow discord between senior government officials and civil servants would only bring more conflict to society, she said.

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During the trip in May to inspect Hong Kong’s reconstruction efforts after the 2008 earthquake, she raised eyebrows after she sidestepped questions on whether she would run for the top job and said she would address the query 12 or 13 months later.

Her stand was in stark contrast to her statement in January when she said she would not stay in the administration, would not run for the top job and would not participate in politics after the end of her term next June.

Last month, outgoing Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and John Tsang made waves when they hinted they might run for the top job – in Jasper Tsang’s case, if only to provide competition.

On Monday, the Legco president told RTHK he would be “very glad” to join Leung’s administration should the incumbent secure a second term as he denied he supported the ABC – Anyone But CY – drive.

“What I’m saying is, if CY takes a second term, I hope he can sort of do ... some soul-searching, make a good review of his administration during the first term, and find out where he can improve.”