Carrie Lam spells out ‘achievable new vision’ for Hong Kong ahead of expected city leadership bid
Eight points begin with a call to play to ‘strengths with determination and confidence’
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, widely expected to resign ahead of a run for Hong Kong’s top job of chief executive, on Thursday morning set out what she described as an eight-point “achievable new vision” for the city.
Atop the list for a city that has become politically polarised and whose best days pundits claimed to be over was a rallying call by Lam to play to the city’s “strengths with determination and confidence”.
At what is seen as her farewell speech as Hong Kong’s No 2 government official, Lam also identified the need to promote a diversified economy to create better jobs. She listed nurturing young people to create a wider pool of talent as her third priority, with balanced development for quality living and supporting the disadvantaged and an inclusive society also mentioned. Safeguarding the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ was the seventh goal, and seizing the many opportunities ahead came eighth.
Lam’s remarks on Thursday echoed sentiments she shared in November last year, when she stated she had no further political ambitions and appeared to choke with emotion in articulating her vision for Hong Kong.
She did not reply to resignation questions before stepping into a conference venue at Science Park, where a closed-door meeting titled “Serving the Evolving City” was held.
Organised by the efficiency unit under her office, the meeting was attended by other major officials including labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and development minister Paul Chan Mo-po.
Lam stated her eight-point vision for Hong Kong at the meeting.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, convenor of political group Path of Democracy, said the chief secretary did not during the meeting give any hint of a possible resignation or of running in the city leadership contest.
“She gave an hour-long speech on how she looks at governing Hong Kong,” he said. “It was a rather in-depth speech explaining how she looks at what the government in Hong Kong should do.” The former lawmaker said he had been invited to speak on a legal topic.
The imminent move by the city’s No 2 official will be seen as an indication she has Beijing’s blessing to run for chief executive.
As she walks out of government headquarters in Admiralty on Thursday evening to make a public announcement that she is leaving the administration she has served since 1980, it remains unclear when Beijing will approve the resignation of her potential rival, John Tsang Chun-wah, as financial secretary.
Executive councillor Ip Kwok-him said the time it was taking the central government to approve Tsang’s resignation, which was submitted on December 12, sent a very clear signal that Lam was the preferred candidate.
But Lam will stop short of confirming her candidacy for the chief executive race after tendering her resignation. Instead, she will go on leave and wait for Beijing’s formal approval, the prerequisite for kicking off her election campaign.
A source familiar with Lam’s campaign said she was likely to hold a press conference early next month to announce her bid and unveil her manifesto.
Another source familiar with Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong affairs said the central government, in processing Tsang’s resignation, was taking into account the possibility of other officials throwing their hats in the ring.
“It will consider the resignations in a comprehensive manner. Hong Kong people will get the subtle message when they note the differential treatment as events unfold,” the source said.
Tian Feilong, a mainland legal academic, said Hongkongers would be left with a perception thegovernment had already anointed Lam if it approved both resignations on the same day.
“It would be the best-case scenario for the central government to persuade Tsang to withdraw his resignation. The second best would be approving Tsang’s resignation two or three days ahead of Lam’s,” Tian said.
The Election Committee’s 1,194 members, a quarter of whom are from the democratic camp, will decide who will govern Hong Kong in the next five years on March 26.
A source close to Tsang’s camp said he might declare his candidacy on Sunday if his resignation was approved today.
But a pro-establishment politician who is well connected with mainland authorities expected the State Council to approve Tsang’s resignation next week.
A person familiar with Tsang’s campaign preparations said the outgoing finance minister might not organise a big rally to announce his bid, because this
year, unlike 2012, most Election Committee members were still sitting on the fence in the absence of a clear signal from Beijing.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung