Chief Executive Election

A day of drama: Lam faced with nickname, naysayers and the noise of protesters

Chief executive-elect’s vote tally of 777 seized upon by detractors who use Cantonese puns to poke fun at Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 11:25pm

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Sunday got her first taste of the challenges she faces in the coming five years when she emerged from the election with 777 votes, a new nickname and fending off renewed calls for political reform.

Before vote counting had even finished inside a hall at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, some of the 1,194 members of the Election Committee had already gathered in the venue, chanting: “I want genuine universal suffrage”.

They followed it up with a loud round of boos before shouting that “Hong Kong has lost”.

In response, Lam’s supporters took to chanting back that “Hong Kong has won”, as they tried to drown out the noise with applause.

Adding to the drama was the announcement that Lam had won the poll with 777 votes. The word “seven” in Cantonese is often also used as a vulgar term associated with stupidity, and internet users wasted no time ridiculing the number on social media and poking fun at Lam.

The devout Catholic did not seem bothered however when asked about the number in a post-election press conference. Seven is considered a number of wholeness and perfection by many Christians.

“I am very honoured and happy to have 777 Election Committee members voting for me,” the government’s former No 2 official said. She said her votes were a result of hard work.

Former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah came in second in the poll with 365 votes despite having been riding high in public opinion polls. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing secured just 21.

After Lam’s victory was announced, a group of about 10 voters held up yellow pieces of paper with the words “I want genuine universal suffrage”, while chanting the same slogan as they protested inside the hall. Lam meanwhile stood calmly on stage.

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A total of 23 ballot papers were declared invalid. On one, a voter had written an obscenity in Cantonese. On another, an elector had ticked the ballot paper so many times that his or her markings looked like a cross. Another ballot paper saw a voter write in Chinese: “Civil disobedience. No fear. I want genuine universal suffrage”.

After Lam was declared the winner, she took a few steps forward on stage and bowed to express her gratitude to supporters, as Tsang and Woo stood behind and clapped.

Lam’s husband Lam Siu-por and elder son Jeremy Lam were on hand to show their support.

“We have been married for 32 years, but we haven’t had much time together. Some people even said that was not normal and were worried he had a mistress. He has sacrificed a lot for me.”

She turned to her husband and said with a smile: “I am sorry, you will have to continue to sacrifice,” to which he replied: “I am willing to sacrifice for the Hong Kong public.”

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Speaking to reporters later, Tsang appeared on the verge of tears at one point but still managed a moment of humour. Asked if he would make use of his public popularity to run for a seat in the Legislative Council, he said: “I don’t want to be Regina 2.0.”

He was referring to New People’s Party chairwoman and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who failed to win enough nominations to run in the chief executive election.