Carrie Lam says she and CY Leung are ‘totally different people’ in attempt to distance herself from outgoing chief executive

Former chief secretary and contender for city’s top job says she has good relationship with lawmakers thanks to decades of government experience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 11:30am

Former No 2 official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sought to project herself as her own woman in Hong Kong’s leadership election, saying she would run on her own steam rather than follow in the footsteps of outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The former chief secretary on Wednesday appeared to distance herself from the “Leung Chun-ying 2.0” label pinned on her by critics, as well as from being seen as Beijing’s preferred choice, a perception enhanced by repeated endorsements from the city’s pro-China newspapers.

Appearing on two radio shows, Lam clarified her earlier remarks on wishing to continue Leung’s policies, saying she did not mean she would follow in his footsteps if she won the March election.

“Mr Leung and I are two totally different types of people. It can be seen through the governance,” Lam said. “This election would be on my own effort. I am confident enough to run in this election.”

Hong Kong leader praises Carrie Lam but silent on John Tsang as chief executive race heats up

She said she had met central government officials to discuss quitting her job to run for chief executive, but saw “no need” to visit Beijing’s liaison office because of the election, which she hoped would be “fair and impartial”.

Lam attributed the strong support for her from some newspapers as the normal media practice of taking stances, and it was ultimately up to the public to judge. A few papers had been critical of her since she expressed an interest in the race, she pointed out.

She went on to claim she had kept a low profile rather than burnish her own image while serving as chief secretary because her job was to assist the chief executive.

Lam said that while Leung had been in the government for 4 and a half years, her more than 36 years of public service had given her more experience in dealing with lawmakers.

“My relationships with the lawmakers were very interactive, though they have turned a bit tense because of some individual events in recent years,” she said.

Lam, who resigned from her position as chief secretary last Thursday and officially announced her plan to run for the top job the following Monday, also sought to clarify her earlier remarks about continuing the current administration’s policy vision.

“I was referring to good policies, which are based on the idea of ‘walking the right path and seeking change while maintaining stability’,” she told another radio programme, adding that such policies included environmental protection and poverty alleviation.

She disagreed that Beijing’s comparatively swift approval of her resignation – it took four days, compared with 35 for former financial secretary and potential arch-rival John Tsang Chun-wah – as a sign of the central government’s favour. “When two of the most senior government officials are stepping down, the consequence is they need to find two new appointments to fill the two very important positions ... I think it is quite logical and understandable to take a holistic view and make the announcements at one go,” she said.

Asked if it was unfair that she was the only chief executive hopeful openly praised by Leung, who on Tuesday described her as an “accountable and competent official”, Lam said this could have been due to how reporters had posed the question.

According to official transcripts of the media session, Leung was responding to a question on whether he would support Lam’s bid to take over the job he was leaving, citing family reasons.