Husband of Hong Kong leader-elect Carrie Lam likely to shy away from woman’s role in community groups
Election winner says Professor Lam Siu-por likes to keep a low profile and will probably stay that way, leaving various groups searching for alternative patrons
As the incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledges a new style of governance, her husband, Professor Lam Siu-por, is forcing dozens of community groups to break with the tradition of having the spouse of the city’s leader as their honorary head.
The first group that will have to find a new president will be the Girl Guides Association, whose constitution requires that its president be the “wife” of the chief executive.
However, its constitution allows for an alternative where the chief executive has no wife or his wife is unable to accept the position of president. Its rules state that the association council “on the recommendation of the executive committee, shall appoint as president a person” who is a Hong Kong resident and “who will inspire confidence in the integrity of the guide movement”.
Incumbent Leung Chun-ying’s wife, Regina Leung,is not just president of the Girl Guides but also holds posts with 73 other community groups, mostly as honorary patron. Most posts do not have a specific term of office.
These groups range from the Jiangmen Women Overseas Friendship Association to the Community Chest and the Scout Association of Hong Kong.
In an interview with Chinese-language media earlier this month, Carrie Lam, who made history as the city’s first ever female leader, said her husband had been keeping a low profile and she would expect him to “continue keeping a low profile” after she became the next chief executive.
She added she did not expect Lam, a mathematician, to take up public office or community work.
A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Executive-elect said yesterday it had no comment on his future role in public life.
The media-shy Lam, who is teaching short courses at the Capital Normal University in Beijing, found himself in the spotlight after his Valentine’s Day letter to his wife was uploaded to the official Facebook page of his wife’s campaign office. His letter was ridiculed by Lam’s critics for having expressed a wish for his wife to be elected to “contribute to the implementation of ‘one country two systems’”.
At the Hong Kong Women Development Association, which has Regina Leung as one of its honorary patrons, vice-president Lee Kwai-chun said: “We may consider inviting Mr Lam to be our honorary patron.
“That position does not necessarily have to be taken up by a woman. We would be very happy if he plays a role in our association. If Professor Lam agrees to accept our invitation, this would certainly help enhance the work of women’s development.”
A Community Chest spokesman said: “As a matter of practice, our president is usually the wife of the governor [before 1997] or of the [Hong Kong] chief executive [after 1997]. We have yet to announce who the incoming president will be.”
Professor Linda Li Che-lan, a political scientist in City University’s department of public policy, saw this as a “gender issue”.
“Professor Lam gets the attention just because it is the first time we have a female chief executive. In the past, no one seemed to bother much about our first ladies’ roles.”
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said: “It is more about the gender stereotype that women are usually more caring and understanding and so politically it may be better for them to take up roles like visiting orphans or children.”
“But if we have a man doing this, we may find it odd and we may not think he can do the job as well as a woman.”
However, Choy believed it would not hurt Lam’s government if her husband took up the role and helped to break this stereotype.