Carrie Lam grilled over business chiefs on advisory team
Former chief secretary introduces star-studded campaign team at rally
This was SCMP’s live coverage of chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s campaign rally. The former chief secretary, who is seen in some quarters as Beijing’s preferred candidate, kicked off the event at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai at 3.30pm with a thicket of Hong Kong’s Who’s Who in attendance.
4.45pm – Inclusive tent
In a question and answer session with the media, Carrie Lam is asked whether the presence of heads of conglomerates and developers on her advisory team means she will favour businesses instead of the grassroots.
“My team also comprises [people from] the women’s sector and the social sector,” she says. “But developing the economy is indeed important for Hong Kong.”
“Many friends from the business sector wanted to join my team because they feared I would be doing too much on social welfare,” she says, adding that their participation could help dispel the misconception that she would focus on social welfare at the expense of the business sector.
Lam is also asked how she will lobby for pan-democrats, none of whom are present.
Lam first says she will “continue to work hard” and, when pressed again, says she will target the engineering, welfare and architectural sectors.
4.20pm – Team announced
Lam announces the membership of the council of chairpersons for her campaign.
Council of chairpersons
• Ronald Arculli, former chairman of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange
• Laura Cha Shih May-lung, Executive Council member
• Moses Cheng Mo-chi, chairman of the Insurance Authority
• Jonathan Choi Koon-sum, of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
• Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Olympic Committee
• Lam Tai-fai, former lawmaker
• Eddy Li Sau-hung, president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association
• Victor Lo, chairman of Gold Peak Industries
• Lo Man-tuen, veteran of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong
• Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, standing committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
• Yu Kwok-chun, of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
• Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong group
Team of senior advisers
• Robin Chan Yau-hing, of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (father of Executive Council member Bernard Chan).
• Chan Wing-kee, standing committee member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
Ian Chan Yau-nam, of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
• Cheng Yiu-tong, Executive Council member, also of the Federation of Trade Unions
• Benny Cheung, gold medallist in fencing
• Cheung Hok-ming, of the rural body Heung Yee Kuk and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong
• Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, local delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress
• Aron Harilela, of the Harilela Group
• Ho Sai-chu, former lawmaker, also of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
• Hui Wing-mau, chairman of Shimao Property Holdings
• Hung Chao-hong, delegate to Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
• Robert Kuok, of the Kerry Group
• Peter Lam Kin-ngok, chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance; chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board
4.17pm – Wrapping up
Carrie Lam wraps up her 45-minute speech by saying she has faith in Hongkongers.
“We care, we listen and we act. I hope to connect with you all as I believe Hong Kong can definitely be better,” she says.
4.13pm – Key points
Lam outlines the key points of her platform, which is still being drafted.
First, the government will speed up work on land development, help citizens buy homes more easily and improve their living environment.
Second, the government will diversify the economy, promoting the development of new industries such as technology.
Lam calls education the “most important investment for Hong Kong”.
“I will comprehensively review the education system with my team to create a stable, caring and inspiring environment for teaching and learning.”
She presents three “new trends” for the government should she be elected.
“I will lead officials and civil servants to create a new trend for governance with public engagement ... and absorb all kinds of talents,” she says.
Second, she will redefine the role of the government, vowing to facilitate business convenience with deregulation tools.
Third, she will employ a new philosophy towards public finance in order for the public to share the fruits of economic development.
4.07pm – Family support
Lam says the three men in the family – her husband and two sons– were supportive of her.
“Jeremy was not just my son but my friend,” she says. “We went to Dunhuang and mainland mountains to help with [charities].
“Jeremy went to Norway to attend a marathon; I flew there to support him. We were very close,” she adds.
“He knew I was very tired over the past few years. Hearing I planned to run for chief executive, he said three words: ‘I don’t agree.’
“He no longer answered my calls,” she says.
But her son subsequently changed his stance, respecting Lam’s decision.
He even flew in from Beijing to attend the rally.
“When I was small, you always comforted me whenever I was afraid and made me feel there was nothing in the world I should be afraid of,” Jeremy Lam says. “When I was lost as I grew up, you always guided me and made me believe there was no obstacle that couldnt be overcome.
“I wíll believe in you, support you and accompany you on the road ahead.”
4.05pm – Trademark look
Turning to her trademark dress, the cheongsam, Carrie Lam explains she often wears one because she has to represent Hong Kong when making official visits to other countries.
The screen then shows four photos of her in different cheongsams.
“I may not have a good figure, but the cheongsam best shows the figure of Asian women. Indeed, foreign politicians were nice to me when I appeared in a cheongsam.”
4.01pm – ‘People-based’ policies
Lam highlights her career working in the government’s treasury branch.
“Public policies should be people-based,” she says. “The government should make good use of resources to invest for the future and care for the needy.”
4.00pm – Reading letters
Another highlight was working as head of Social Services Department when Hong Kong was in bad shape in terms of unemployment, Lam says.
“This gave me the biggest sense of achievement as I could directly help needy citizens every day,” she says. “I developed a habit of reading and following up on each and every letter addressed to me or even just the unit heads.”
“This habit has never changed, except that now I only have the weekends to go to the office to read mail or emails,” she says.
Lam invites one such email correspondent, pharmacy graduate Eason Chan, to speak. Chan says he supports Lam as she surprised him by personally responding to his email on the uncertainties facing pharmacy graduates.
“I was surprised that a chief secretary would reply to an email from a young graduate,” he says, adding that people might not know about her responsiveness.
3.55pm – ‘Not my husband, but he’s here’
Lam says a highlight of her early career was working as an administrative officer in Sai Kung. She says she liked the seaside town, where people were nice and sincere to her. It was also when she got married.
At this point she shows a picture of herself and a man at a celebratory function.
“This is not my husband. But he’s here today.”
The crowd giggles.
The man is George Ng Sze-fuk, chairman of the Sai Kung district council. Ng takes the microphone while among the audience members and praises Lam as a “down-to-earth” person.
3.53pm – Understanding China
“As I joined many activities to understand China, I had a chance to step into a China traumatised by the Cultural Revolution,” she says, recalling trips to Peking and Tsinghua universities and showing a picture of the Great Wall.
She goes on to say it is important to have economic development and social improvement in Hong Kong, citing worries over whether the city’s capacity for development has been eroded.
She then describes her career as an administrative officer and her “uninterrupted life of civil service”.
3.51pm – ‘Stay united, connect and proceed’
Lam’s “We Connect” campaign slogan includes the catchwords “we care, we listen and we act”.
“Our society is divided and less harmonious than it used to be,” she says. “We need to stay united, connect and proceed.”
3.50pm – Inspirations for public service
Lam says late lawmaker Elsie Tu and former unionist lawmaker Lau Chin-shek are both her inspirations in serving the public.
At this point, Lau, in the audience, stands up and praises Lam for her devotion to grassroots and labour issues. He recalls their early days at the University of Hong Kong.
“I love Hong Kong, so I support you,” Lau says.
3.47pm – School recollections, activist friends
Lam continues her speech with recollections of her Form 7 role as head girl.
“Being a head girl, I was told to care and inspire,” she said. “In today’s Hong Kong, we have many disputes ... this attitude should play a positive role too.”
In 1977, she adds, she was enrolled at the University of Hong Kong.
“I skipped a lot of classes and joined many activities to understand China and Hong Kong, and I became aware of social injustice.”
Some social activists became her lifelong friends, she says.
3.49pm – Projecting energy
Lam is wearing a pink long-sleeved shirt inside her blue campaign T-shirt, showing her energetic side to supporters. She is also using a hands-free microphone as she introduces herself.
While Lam didn’t offer an English-language version of her website for non-Chinese readers when she launched it last month, a Chinese-English translation as well as sign language simultaneous interpretation is being provided to the audience at the rally.
3.45pm – Serious but not boring
An alumna of Lam’s high school is invited to speak to correct society’s “misunderstanding” of the former No 2 official.
“Many think you’re serious,” she said. “Actually we are not serious in the sense of being boring, but we handle things seriously. You have to deliver something well, not just get things done. And that’s Carrie’s attitude.”
3.42pm – Moving in
Raising her voice in a deviation from her usual quieter tone, Carrie Lam talks about her childhood.
She shows two photos of herself as head girl at school and tells supporters how she was born in a Wan Chai shophouse with no running water, no lift and no hot water.
Her parents saved enough money to move into a private flat in Quarry Bay when she graduated from secondary school, a 600 sq ft flat in Nam Fung Sun Chuen.
“To this day, I still remember the excitement of moving in,” she says.
3.40pm – MTR uncertainty
“To me another meaning of ‘We Connect’ is that I can get connected with you more so everyone knows me better,” Lam says.
“My PR team already seized my Octopus card,” she said, mocking her own “messy” handling of the smart card when she looked uncertain about how to pass through an MTR station last week.
3.38pm – Everyone’s birthday
“Hello everyone,” Lam says. “This is everyone’s birthday as its Day 7 of the Lunar New Year today. Happy birthday!
“It’s also the start of spring today. It means a wealth of opportunities. I hope Hong Kong will be full of opportunities every day.”
“You can see the theme today – ‘We Connect’. This is my electioneering slogan. The team and I chose ‘We Connect’ because we know Hong Kong society was divided, lacked harmony and is stuck in a stalemate.”
“We must stay united and charge forward,” Lam said.
3.35pm – Video campaigning
A short video is shown featuring Carrie Lam’s earlier visits to different communities including Aberdeen and Stanley.
Lam makes her entry, taking the stage with 15 young people wearing her campaign T-shirts.
She gives each of them a high five.
3.30pm – Clappers and a fencer kick it off
Chief executive contender Carrie Lam’s event started with a fencer appearing on stage.
“Yes I’m a fencing athlete,” he said.
Lam “is very, very, very hardworking,” the sportsman said, while hundreds of supporters waved their inflated clappers.
3.22pm – Beijing cavalry
Several Beijing loyalist heavyweights show up in support of Lam.
They include Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress, and Maria Tam Wai-chu, local deputy to the National People’s Congress.
Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, deputy chairman of the Bank of East Asia and a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also showed up.
3.15pm – Big real estate
More real estate big guns show up alongside retired Wheelock and Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo, including Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the Real Estate Developers Association’s executive committee.
Also present are Leonie Ki Man-fung, a former core supporter of outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying, former unionist lawmaker Lau Chin-shek, former fire services director Gregory Lo Chun-hung, former Chinese University president Lawrence Lau Juen-yee and Hong Thai travel general manager Jason Wong Chun-tat
2.48pm – More supporters show up
More supporters, including election committee members (relevant sectors in brackets) turn up, including:
• Aron Harilela, chairman of the Harilela Group, which runs the Holiday Inn hotel chain (commercial sector I);
• Allan Zeman, chairman of the LKF Group (catering);
• Ben Kwan-Kei (sports) who said the sports sector “tended” to support Lam;
• Douglas Young, founder of the G.O.D retail chain;
• Robin Chan, former local deputy to National People’s Congress and father of executive councillor Bernard Chan.
1.25pm – Supporters arrive
Carrie Lam’s elder son, Jeremy, and Sino Land’s second-generation tycoon and executive director Daryl Ng arrive at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre with several other supporters, including election committee members Eliza Chan Ching-har (CPPCC), Leo Kung Lin-Cheng (finance) and Ng Sze-fuk (district council).
About 1,000 people from various sectors, including business leaders, lawmakers and delegates to the national congresses are here at the rally. During what her campaign office has dubbed a “sharing session”, Lam is due to speak about her vision for the city, though she will not unveil her full platform, which is still on the drawing board.
The city’s former No 2 official is also expected to introduce her star-studded campaign team. Ronald Arculli, former chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and former convenor of the Executive Council, heads a 12-member presidium of Lam’s campaign office. Other heavyweights include Laura Cha Shih May-lung, an executive councillor and chairwoman of the Financial Services Development Council, and Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, a member of the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Bernard Chan, executive councillor and president of Asia Financial Holdings, serves as director of Lam’s campaign office.
Lam, who joined the administration in 1980 after graduating from the University of Hong Kong, has sought to highlight the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development, given the city’s widening income gap and hefty fiscal surplus.
On January 12, Lam resigned as chief secretary and announced her plan to run for Hong Kong’s top job. It took Beijing only four days to approve her resignation, while her arch-rival, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, had to wait for 35 days for clearance.
She formally declared her candidacy on January 16, promising good governance with greater transparency and “new blood” in her cabinet. She also vowed to continue with outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s “good policies” aimed at solving key issues such as housing and youth.
At a closed-door meeting at the Science Park earlier, Lam spoke of the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development and an inclusive society.
But she emphasised that she was “not a socialist”, and that Hong Kong should not abandon capitalism.
The Election Committee’s 1,194 members, a quarter of whom are from the pan-democratic camp, will select the city’s leader on March 26.
Tsang and Lam are running almost neck and neck in public opinion, according to a survey commissioned by the Post early last month, with the former financial chief ahead by 4.4 percentage points.