Beijing agrees new Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam can run things her way

Liaison office tells chief executive-elect he supports her pledge that the incoming cabinet will not rely on help to lobby city’s politicians

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2017, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 5:07pm

Hong Kong’s newly elected leader announced on Wednesday that ­Beijing’s representative branches would leave it to her to run her own administration and take the lead in bridging the city’s political divide.

Three days after being voted into her new job, chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor paid courtesy calls to Beijing’s liaison office, the office of the ­foreign ministry, and the People’s Liberation Army garrison.

My team won’t look to Beijing for help, Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam pledges

The meetings came a day after she said ministers in her administration would “be in charge of their own work”, rather than taking their cue from Beijing’s representatives. Lam is under pressure to distance herself from outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who has long been accused of overreliance on the central ­government’s input.

Lam’s critics were quick to contrast the duration of her meeting with liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming– 90 minutes – against her 30-minute chat with Legislative Councilpresident Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Monday, but she dismissed concerns about her focus.

Lam said her meeting with Zhang took longer as she had to explain her election platform, especially her economic and financial policy plans.

He agrees that it is the Hong Kong government’s job to ... lobby lawmakers
Carrie Lam, on Zhang Xiaoming

“Lots of proposals in my platform would need discussions with, and support from Beijing. It might not be necessary for me to do the same with the Legco president ... but I have repeatedly said it is one of my first priorities to ­improve the executive branch’s relationship with Legco,” she said.

The official Xinhua news agency said Zhang had briefed her on the central government’s arrangements for her appointment as chief executive.

Lam cited Zhang as saying he was aware and supportive of her pledge that her cabinet would not rely on the liaison office’s help to lobby politicians.

“He agrees that it is the Hong Kong government’s job to ...lobby lawmakers to support its policy proposals. He agrees with my ­clarification.”

While there has beenconcern at the liaison office’s involvement in the chief executive election, ­including reports that Election Committee members were lobbied behind the scenes to vote for Lam, she dismissed suggestions that she was there to thank Zhang for ensuring her victory.

“I did not especially thank them,” she said. “What I need to say thanks for is Election Committee members’ endorsement and the recognition of the vast majority of Hong Kong residents.”

Lam won the electionon Sunday by bagging 777 votes from the 1,194-member committee.

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Lam also visited Beijing’s foreign ministry office for talks with acting commissioner Tong Xiao­ling. She said that in her 45-minute discussion with Tong, she told the official who deals with Hong Kong’s international affairs that her incoming administration would “play a new role as a facilitator and promoter”.

“We will do more government-to-government work, and that would need the support of the foreign ministry and our country’s consulates and embassies overseas,” Lam explained.

She also met Hong Kong PLA commander Lieutenant General Tan Benhong, who runs a low-profile garrison tasked with matters related to the city’s defence.