Keeping continuity in Hong Kong politics without the hardline is a balancing act

The chief executive candidate has promised to stick to current leader Leung Chun-ying’s acceptable policies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 3:45am

Chief Executive aspirant Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday tried to walk the tightrope of promising continuity with her predecessor’s more acceptable policies while hinting at a change from his unpopular, hardline ways.

Amid concerns she would adopt Leung Chun-ying’s uncompromising approach, she pledged to improve the government’s engagement with the public and its accountability.

The former chief secretary has been labelled “Leung Chun-ying 2.0” by pan-democrats and their supporters following a recent controversy over government plans to build a version of Beijing’s Palace Museum in Hong Kong.

Lam, who spearheaded the plan, caused a storm earlier by saying there was no need for a prior public consultation as it would be “embarrassing” if it opposed the plan.

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Lam yesterday did not steer clear of her unpopular boss, but pledged to enhance the city’s governance.

“I would not have considered running if [Leung had] sought re-election,” Lam said. The incumbent gave up the race for family reasons.

“I have no choice but to reconsider as there’s a need to get the good policies going,” she said, referring to blueprints on housing and poverty alleviation. Lam said it was hard to explain why people would label her “Leung Chun-ying 2.0” and argued even pan-democrats had regarded her as someone “communicable” when she was serving in the treasury bureau in the late 1990s.

“Every chief executive has his or her own governing style and ways,” she said, adding good governance to her means more public engagement, greater transparency and a more inclusive society. Even as Lam declared her candidacy, yesterday’s press conference made it clear her campaign was still a work-in-progress, with no slogans or posters on stage.

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Meanwhile, executive councillor Bernard Chan has become the director of her campaign office, which will comprise two teams – the chairmen’s committee and the policy advisers. The former would be composed of heavyweights, such as former stock exchange chairman Ronald Arculli, in charge of the campaign’s strategy, while representatives from different sectors would form the policy advisers task force to help draft Lam’s manifesto and facilitate interaction with all walks of life.

Lam thanked her husband and two sons, aged 23 and 25, for their support, revealing they had originally opposed her running. Lam has been separated from her family since 2006, with them being based first in the UK, then Beijing, and it would be the second time she reneged on a promise to retire – the first when she became chief secretary in 2012.