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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam promises bigger part for youth to play in making policies

She says young people will be recruited to understand workings within government, and create policies to respond to public demands

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 11:43pm

With just weeks to go before being sworn in as Hong Kong’s next leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to provide a platform for the young generation to participate in politics and allow them a bigger say in policymaking.

The chief executive-elect also said teenagers who take part in activism and political movements should not be criticised, but urged them to do so with critical thinking.

On a radio programme for students taking the Diploma of Secondary Education exams on Tuesday evening, Lam detailed her plans to add young talent to her administration when she takes office on July 1.

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A major initiative announced in her election manifesto was to recruit about 20 to 30 young people, to be placed in a policy and project coordination task force under the government think tank Central Policy Unit.

“Regardless of their professions and their political beliefs, I welcome them to join this task force and have a chance to really understand what policymaking is like from inside the government, as well as formulate policies which respond to the public’s demands,” she said.

Lam has repeatedly stated her aim to revamp the Central Policy Unit to enhance its role in cross-bureau coordination and facilitate communication between the government and the public.

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“To reflect the spirit of public engagement under the new style of governance, this [revamped] unit will recruit young people from different sectors in full-time contract positions,” her manifesto stated.

“They will be responsible for both policy research and collecting public views … so the government can take public opinions into consideration at an earlier stage.”

Lam also believed that young people were entitled to express their views.

“They shouldn’t be [criticised] … for commenting on the current situation, criticising or even taking action – as long as they do everything according to the law,” she said.

The former government No 2 was widely recognised for spearheading televised talks with student leaders behind the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in 2014, in an attempt to end the blockade of major thoroughfares in the city.

They will be responsible for both policy research and collecting public views
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief executive-elect

“But [they should] have independent thinking and remain analytical during this process, and arrive at their own conclusions. If they simply follow others’ opinions and actions, then it might not be ideal,” Lam said on the radio programme.

She also promised to increase recurrent spending on education by HK$5 billion a year to help secondary and tertiary students. One of the goals was to hire more teaching staff and boost the teacher-to-student ratio.

The city’s first female leader-in-waiting also said Hong Kong must diversify its economy to create more job opportunities outside of the pillar industries, pointing to innovation and technology and the creative industry as areas of focus in the coming years.

Lam also touched on her setbacks when she was in the chief secretary post, pointing to the Palace Museum as the most recent example.

“What was a good thing attracted unnecessary controversy … I dedicated a lot of effort into this so I was a little frustrated,” she said.

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Lam surprised the city last December by announcing a HK$3.5 billion deal with the Palace Museum in Beijing to set up a Hong Kong version.

But what was set to be a big boost for the cultural and tourism sectors became a heated debate over how negotiations took place behind closed doors, with a public consultation conducted only after the project was announced.