Carrie Lam’s central government backers should ‘keep quiet’, retired senior official says

Government veteran Michael Suen Ming-yeung says actions by mainland officials more hindrance than help to former chief secretary’s campaign

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 9:02pm

A retired veteran official has called on central government representatives backing Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the city’s leadership race to “keep quiet”.

Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who worked in the government for 46 years and was in charge of different policy areas before leaving in 2012, shared the advice during a radio programme on Tuesday morning, with the chief executive election less than two weeks away.

“They should shut their mouths and keep quiet. Just let the candidates perform,” said Suen, who served as secretary for constitutional affairs from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

While mainland officials were said to be canvassing for votes on Lam’s behalf, Suen described such actions as more of a hindrance than a help, as there were many things that Lam “could handle by herself”.

His opinion was echoed by the results of a survey commissioned by a local think tank showing that seven out of 10 Hongkongers wanted Beijing to refrain from commenting on the city’s leadership race.

As for rival candidate John Tsang Chun-wah’s reported edge over Lam in terms of popularity, Suen said this was just an impression painted by the media.

“As [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying is not staying on for another term, people feel disappointed that their target of attack has diminished ... therefore they changed strategy and created another Leung, namely Leung Chun-ying 2.0,” he said. Lam was earlier given the label by pan-democrats.

Suen added that a candidate’s popularity could drop by half three months after he or she was elected, as people’s initial expectations of a new leader were based on disappointment over the current leader.

While not clearly stating which candidate he supported, Suen said one had to be fair when looking at Lam.

“Of course good policies should be continued. Do we want big changes every time there is a new term of government?” he asked.

Suen also defended Tsang and disagreed with claims that he had not worked hard enough when serving in the government.

“I don’t think he is [lazy] at all. I might be more laid-back than him,” Suen said.

He said a lot of Tsang’s work involved financial issues and might not be visible to the public.

On the third chief executive candidate Woo Kwok-hing, Suen said he appeared to be carefree when making comments or pledges.

“He knows whether he stands a high chance of winning the race or not. He doesn’t have any burden at all, and can therefore speak freely,” Suen said.

“He masters legal knowledge and ways of dealing with people well, but he isn’t knowledgeable in many policies,” he added.

Asked by the radio host if he thought someone from the education sector should be appointed to head the Education Bureau, Suen, who was also a former education minister, said it was not necessary. He pointed out that a banking giant recently hired a leader from outside the industry.

“We need someone who can handle problems and stay calm amid challenges. These are attributes all ministers should have,” Suen said.