Please don’t call my husband ‘first gentleman’, Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect says

City’s next leader reveals the media-shy academic dislikes the term and proposes ‘the spouse of the chief executive’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 6:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 10:02pm

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s victory in the chief executive race poses a question raised previously when Angela Merkel was elected chancellor of Germany – what is the best way to refer to the leader’s media-shy husband and how should he perform his duties?

How about “first gentleman”? Definitely not, the chief executive-elect said on Tuesday, because her mathematician husband, Professor Lam Siu-por, did not like the term.

“Perhaps he should be called ‘the spouse of the chief executive’,” Carrie Lam said on a radio show.

When Lam becomes the city’s first female leader on July 1 there will be at least one break with a tradition normally associated with the chief executive’s spouse – her husband is determined not to take up any honorary chairmanships of community groups.

In her own words: Carrie Lam on Beijing, societal rifts and marriage sacrifices

“This is the wish of Mr Lam,” Lam, the former chief secretary, said. “Siu-por is a very low-profile academic ... he does not want to change [his way of life] even when I become chief executive.”

She said she would talk to the community groups in question about whether their constitutions should be amended and how to fill the vacancies.

Incumbent Leung Chun-ying’s wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, has held posts with more than 70 community groups, mostly as honorary patron. These range from the Jiangmen Women Overseas Friendship Association to the Community Chest and the Scout Association of Hong Kong.

Lam’s husband was also unlikely to join her on trips overseas, she said, unless there was a mathematics institute he wanted to visit.

Carrie Lam: I need my husband to lean on

When asked if she would seek a second term, Lam said this would make her husband, who had not enjoyed any “carefree trips” with her for years, very unhappy. But she stopped short of ruling it out.

The number of votes she garnered from the 1,194-member Election Committee – 777 – also earned her a new nickname as “seven” in Cantonese can be used as a vulgar term meaning “stupid”.

Lam revealed that barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen, a member of her campaign office, had jokingly advised her not to accept a problematic vote in the election to avoid that embarrassing number.

But Lam said there was “no reason not to” when the ballot paper clearly indicated it was a vote for her.