Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam signs key declaration ... but fails to tell media in advance

Chief executive-elect urged to improve communication after confirming she is not a member of a political party

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 7:23pm

Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor signed a ceremonial declaration on Friday to confirm she was not affiliated to any political party.

But in what was seen as her latest gaffe, the former chief secretary chose to do it in the lift lobby of a television station without informing the media in advance.

Under Hong Kong law the winner of the chief executive election must “publicly make a statutory declaration” to declare they are not a member of a political party within seven days of the poll.

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After winning the election in March 2012, Leung Chun-ying signed before the media in the lobby of his office in Central, dismissing allegations that he was a member of an “underground Communist Party”.

Instead of following Leung’s example, Lam, whose office is in Admiralty, signed the declaration as she arrived at TVB’s Tseung Kwan O headquarters for the recording of an interview at 11am.

Executive councillor Bernard Chan, director of Lam’s campaign office, witnessed the signing as a justice of the peace.

Shortly before signing, Lam said: “I am asking you all to witness this, and Mr Bernard Chan is here as a witness too ... [because] our political system at the moment, by law, does not allow the chief executive to have any political affiliation.”

The chief executive-elect’s office had earlier informed several media outlets, including the Post,

that Lam would be at TVB, but there was no mention of any signing ceremony. A spokesman later explained it was decided that Lam would sign at the TV station because that was her only public activity of the day.

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Amid complaints that it had failed to inform all media outlets about the ceremony, the office launched an internet messaging group “to strengthen communication” with journalists.

Barrister and former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah told the Post that while the legality of the signing would not be undermined by the choice of location, Lam “should be more transparent in announcing her plans”.

During her election campaign, Lam was ridiculed for various gaffes, including not knowing how to use an Octopus card on the MTR and being unsure about where to buy toilet paper. Her official Facebook page belatedly opened three weeks into the campaign and was quickly flooded with negative comments.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement 22 pan-democratic lawmakers said Lam must meet their demands to show her determination to heal Hong Kong’s political divide. These included a promise to ask Beijing to retract the white paper issued by the State Council in 2014, which stressed the central government’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.

It said she must also set aside Beijing’s stringent framework on reform and restart the process as soon as possible. In June 2015, pan-democrats opposed the government’s package for electing the city’s leader by universal suffrage.

Under Beijing’s plan, only two or three hopefuls could run in a popular vote after winning majority support from a 1,200-member nominating committee. Critics called this political screening.