Regina Ip all set to join new cabinet despite past criticisms of incoming Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Pro-establishment lawmaker, who earlier vowed not to join the Executive Council, now said doing so would help influence government policy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 10:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 2:02am

Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is all set to join the cabinet of Hong Kong’s incoming leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the woman she regularly criticised during her unsuccessful campaign for the chief executive’s job.

Ip, who quit outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s cabinet to challenge Lam for the top job, said on Tuesday that her New People’s Party had agreed that joining the chief executive-elect’s new Executive Council could help influence government policy.

Ip, who failed to secure enough nominations to officially enter the chief executive race in March, had earlier vowed not to join Lam’s cabinet, but in a U-turn later, she said she would consult her party on whether to accept an invitation from the city’s leader in waiting.

Hong Kong chief executive candidate Regina Ip has second thoughts about joining Executive Council

Speaking after an hour-long meeting with Lam and nine of her party colleagues on Tuesday afternoon, Ip, a former security minister, revealed that her party’s leadership had recently agreed she should accept the offer from her former subordinate in government.

“I consulted my party’s central committee on the issue of re-joining the Executive Council. Members are generally in favour, and I told Mrs Lam that I would leave the matter in her hands,” Ip said. “If she considers that I can be of service to her administration, I would actively consider.”

Last month, Ip’s party lost its vice-chairman, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, who quit citing ideological differences between them. Tien was critical of Ip’s role in Leung’s cabinet before she resigned from it to run for chief executive.

Ip argued on Tuesday that Tien was the main reason why she had promised not to re-join the top policymaking body.

Legco filibusters make it harder for government to support Hong Kong entrepreneurs, Regina Ip says

“At that time my vice-chairman strongly opposed the idea, but now he has left ... and my party colleagues said that we should not look at the Executive Council in such a negative way,” she explained.

“Many parties want to be represented on the council to influence the government’s policy and reflect community views.”

As security minister, Ip was tasked to spearhead the government’s push to enact national security legislation in 2003. She stepped down after half a million people took to the street to oppose the bill, fearing that the city’s freedoms were in danger.

Ip had previously said she did not want to work under Lam, who ranked lower than her as the head of the Social Welfare Department in 2003.

She was singing a different tune on Tuesday: “Joining Exco is not a personal issue, it is for assisting the next administration’s governance and for the well-being of residents as a whole.”

Ip also reiterated that she would not recommend her party’s district councillors to resign from their current posts to take up full-time jobs in Lam’s cabinet as ministers, undersecretaries or political assistants. The party “is relatively young and needs talents” for elections, she said.

Apart from the issue of governance, Ip said, their meeting with Lam focused on issues such as education, land and housing, as well as youth employment.

Meanwhile, the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme found that Lam’s popularity dropped last month. Of the 1,006 residents interviewed from last Monday to Thursday, 42 per cent said they supported Lam as the city’s next leader while 49 per cent said otherwise. It gave her a net approval rating of minus 7 percentage points – down 9 percentage points from early April.