Outgoing Chief Executive CY Leung and Carrie Lam talk handover and Hong Kong unification day after victory

Pan-democrats unsure whether to subscribe to incoming leader’s agenda

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 5:09pm

Even before she takes up the chief executive’s job in July, Hong Kong’s newly-elected leader-in-waiting has vowed to get started on building consensus on education reform – a less controversial hot potato on her plate – in order to win the trust of the opposition camp.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is widely perceived to have won Sunday’s election thanks to Beijing’s backing, called on Hongkongers yesterday to let go of “megaphone politics” and return to rational discussions.

A day after she vowed to embark on a new style of governance and heal the city’s social and political divide, Lam was in listening mode as she spent four hours touring five districts and greeting her supporters on the streets.

Asked about rowdy demonstrators waving national flags to support her, Lam said: “A competition over who’s speaking louder is no solution to minimising the social divide. In future governance, we would strive to persuade people through rational deliberations.”

Her plan to build an “all-inclusive” cabinet based on merit rather than political affiliation is already facing obstacles, with the Democratic Party barring members from joining her team. However, others appeared ready to talk to Lam about education.

“Stakeholders across the political spectrum have very similar ideas so far as education is concerned,” Lam said after meeting Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen. “In fact they are 80-90 per cent identical.”

Lam said she would discuss her plan to inject an additional HK$5 billion into education with lawmakers from across the political spectrum in the coming three months, “so that we can report to Legco as soon as the next administration begins”.

Ip Kin-yuen, vice-chairman of the Professional Teachers’ Union, said the pan-democrats were willing to talk to Lam if she invited them for discussions before July.

“In fact some of the union’s proposals were absorbed into Lam’s platform,” he said. “The chance of reaching a consensus is quite high.”

One of the most agreeable subjects will be the abolition of a Primary 3 compulsory test that is widely seen as an unnecessary burden on schoolchildren, parents and teachers.

Lam also met outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday, saying later that her former boss had “responded positively” to her plans to heal a divided city.

Leung said after the meeting: “One of the most important tasks of the remainder of this administration is to ensure a smooth transition. My team and I will give the chief executive-elect the best possible support.”

Lam then proceeded on her whirlwind walkabout in five districts. Apart from a few dissenting voices – including a Kwun Tong shopkeeper urging her to take care of Hongkongers rather than mainlanders – Lam was warmly received, taking selfies with smiling passers-by lining up to congratulate her.

“Let’s take a photo, pretty lady,” a middle-aged woman said. A smiling Lam protested: “I’m not pretty.”

After her post-election, meet-the-public sessions Lam will be busy putting together her new cabinet. “Do not assume that everyone I meet in the coming future will be chosen into the governing team,” she said.

While Lam has expressed hope that she can recruit members of all sides to join her team, the city’s leading opposition party is reluctant to be part of it.

“Our position is that we will not allow party members to join the cabinet or Executive Council as non-official members,” Democratic Party stalwart James To Kun-sun said. “Our political beliefs are too different.”