Carrie Lam tries to shed ‘CY 2.0’ label with final manifesto, but old complaints prove hard to shake

Chief executive contender seeks to boost popularity, but opponents point to the lack of progress on political reform and Article 23

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 11:01am

While chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has declared that sound policies by the current government should be carried forward, she appears determined to shake off the label of “CY 2.0”, if her full manifesto is any guide.

In the final release of her platform on Monday, which was preceded by two other instalments, Lam proposed axeing some of the unpopular policies of incumbent chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Watch: Carrie Lam presents her manifesto

Analysts believed Lam, the former government No 2 official, seen as being too close to the unpopular Leung, was eager to boost her popularity, citing her plan to reform the government’s Central Policy Unit (CPU) think tank, abolish the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment for Primary Three pupils and use MTR dividends to subsidise fares.

Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said: “In a sense, it is a wise move for Lam to effectively fold the CPU. The organisation has lost its credibility after Leung Chun-ying expanded its role to vet people entering government advisory committees.”

Lam has also wanted the unit be restructured to become a “policy and project co-ordination unit”, which former CPU head Professor Lau Siu-kai saw as transforming CPU into an elite group that served the chief executive and his or her top aides.

“It will become sort of a special assistant to the chief executive,” Lau said.

Cheung Chor-yung, assistant head of City University’s department of public policy and a former member of the CPU also approved of Lam’s call to strip the unit of its power to screen appointees to government consultative bodies.

Hong Kong chief executive hopeful Regina Ip hits out at Carrie Lam as she struggles to secure nominations

James Sung Lap-kung, a political analyst at City University, felt Lam’s ideas in her manifesto could help her to shed the “CY 2.0” label. But he said: “Lam’s move could please some quarters of the public but I don’t think the pan-democrats would turn to vote for her just because of some of these gestures.”

Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said he was pleased with Lam’s idea of allowing more young people to take part in formulating public policies under a revamped CPU. “But it still depends on who will be appointed to head the new CPU,” he said.

Earlier, Lam’s main rival, John Tsang Chun-wah, had said the public lacked trust in the government, pointing out that members of some consultative bodies appointed by the government – as advised by the CPU – were mostly pro-establishment figures.

He said that if he won the election, he would consider letting pan-democratic figures join his team as long as they had the capability.

Lam wants to buy off young people. No young people will be cheated by her
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Demosisto

Activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, of the political party Demosisto, however dismissed Lam’s idea of hiring young people to join the government as “trying to buy off young people”.

Wong – who joined lawmaker Lau Siu-lai and about 10 fellow activists from the League of Social Democrats on Monday in forcing their way into the venue where Lam was delivering her manifesto to stage a protest – said: “Lam wants to buy off young people. No young people will be cheated by her. No young people will want to join the government. We are not so naive to think that the government will be changed if 20 to 30 of us can join the new CPU.”

Others were not impressed by Lam’s sidelining of difficult political issues such as political reform or not wanting to move on Article 23, Hong Kong’s obligation in the Basic Law to implement national security legislation.

Beijing isn’t doing Carrie Lam any favours with its blatant signals

Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok, of the opposition Civic Party, accused Lam of being irresponsible for stating she would only restart political reform under Beijing’s framework.

In June 2015, lawmakers opposed the government’s package for electing the city’s leader by universal suffrage. Critics said the proposal – under which only two or three hopefuls could run for the post after wining majority support from a 1,200-member nominating committee before proceeding to the popular vote – was a form of political screening.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, praised Lam for coming up with some innovative ideas in improving people’s livelihoods. Chow cited the idea of using dividends collected by the government from the MTR Corp to subsidise fares for commuters on long trips.

As a major shareholder, the government received HK$4 billion in dividends every year, Lam said.

In Beijing ahead of the annual parliamentary meetings, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, who lost to Leung in the 2012 chief executive race, said: “Rather than working on political reforms, society should rest for one term of administration.”

Asked if Lam would be going against Beijing’s principles by putting aside Article 23 legislation, Tang, who is now a Standing Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference said: “I don’t believe that Mrs Lam would go against the central government’s principle. She is a person of principles, and had said that it is Hong Kong’s constitutional responsibility to legislate for Article 23.

“But this, again, needs the right political environment.”

Key Points:

Government reforms

Revamp Central Policy Unit by turning it from a think tank into a policy and project coordination unit that fosters public participation in policymaking and assists in cross-bureau coordination.

Set up a Culture Bureau and Tourism Bureau; merge land and housing into one bureau.

Establish a Youth Development Commission.

Youth development

Recruit 20 to 30 young policy researchers to join the policy and project coordination unit on contract basis.

Set a ratio for appointment of young members to certain government advisory boards and committees.

Technology and business

Encourage owners of successful revitalised industrial buildings to rent out parts of their buildings as ­

“co-working space” at concessionary rental.

Revamp content of Science Museum to stimulate children’s interest in innovation and technology.

Education

Suspend the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment component of the Basic Competency Assessment to reduce pressure on pupils.

Housing and transport

Allow Home Ownership Scheme owners to rent their flats out through social enterprises even if they have not paid their premium.

Spend MTR Corp’s dividends payable to the government – currently around HK$4 billion a year – to lower train fares.

Explore feasibility of providing free Wi-fi on all MTR trains.

Labour and welfare

Import foreign labour for care services industry to address long-term labour shortage.

Set up Commission on Children to address pressing issues.

Amend relevant legislation so that patients can have the choice of “dying in place”.

External affairs

Regularly lead trade delegations and bring young professionals and business leaders to different countries along the “One Belt, One Road” alignment.

By Jeffie Lam