In break with protocol, Carrie Lam holds long session with top Hong Kong affairs official

Then chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying did not have a one-on-one with Xi Jinping, who was then in charge of Hong Kong affairs, five years ago

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 11:33pm

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor held a marathon meeting in Beijing on Monday with the top official in charge of Hong Kong affairs – a departure from regular protocol ahead of receiving her letter of appointment on Tuesday as Hong Kong’s next chief executive.

She will meet Premier Li Keqiang for the letter first, followed by talks with President Xi Jinping, for the first time since winning the city’s leadership race last month.

She spent three hours in talks with National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang in the Great Hall of the People, raising eyebrows as it deviated from previous practice.

Outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not have a private meeting with Xi – the then top official overseeing the city’s affairs – five years ago when Leung went to Beijing to receive his ­appointment letter. He met then president Hu Jintao, with Xi present, and also premier Wen Jiabao.

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Lam, the former chief secretary who won the election with 777 votes, arrived in the capital on Sunday for a four-day visit to receive her formal appointment letter for the top job.

All eyes will be on Lam’s major meetings on Tuesday. She is scheduled to be received by Li first in the morning at Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in Beijing. After picking up her official letter of appointment from Li, she will have a separate meeting with Xi.

It will be the first time for Xi to publicly break his silence on Hong Kong affairs since the months-long and politically charged chief executive election. Lam, seen as Beijing’s favoured candidate, beat the popular underdog John Tsang Chun-wah, the former financial secretary.

In 2012, Hu had urged the then incoming leader, Leung, to unite various sectors of the community for the sake of the city.

Yesterday, Lam also met Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, for two hours to exchange views on the preparatory work for her incoming administration, which will be officially sworn in on July 1.

That was followed by a three-hour meeting with Zhang from 5pm to 8pm, which was joined by her husband, mathematician Lam Siu-por. It included dinner.

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It was not clear what concrete issues were discussed as no arrangements were made to brief the news media.

Lam was tight-lipped on whether she informed Wang of her progress in recruiting ministers as she left his office.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said it was hard to directly compare Lam’s itinerary with that of her predecessor, but argued that the incoming leader’s lengthy meeting with Zhang signalled Beijing’s latest attitude on Hong Kong, given the special role of the No 3 official in the Politburo.

“Zhang is a key party member, the chairman of the national legislature as well as the top official in charge of Hong Kong’s affairs. Many concrete policies regarding Hong Kong are delivered by him and he has a strong say in instructing which direction Hong Kong should head towards,” Lau said.

“It is therefore very apparent that the central government wants to have a stronger role in the city’s affairs.”

Lau expected Hong Kong’s “political room” to be smaller in future, and Lam’s administration to feel the shadow of the central government.