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Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam unveils her ‘ideal team’ of mostly familiar faces

Incoming Hong Kong leader waves aside questions on whether central government turned down her first choices for ministerial posts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 5:16pm

With just over a week to go before she takes over as Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor has unveiled a cabinet dominated by old faces, calling it the “ideal” team to launch her new style of governance and ­rebuild social harmony.

But the chief executive-elect yesterday brushed aside queries on whether Beijing had rejected her first picks for the dream team she had sought, and was vague on how she would handle mounting pressure to relaunch two contentious tasks shelved by her predecessors – enacting national security legislation and making national education compulsory in schools.

Introducing her team to the media after the central government approved and announced the appointments, Lam conceded that rather than the new talent she had promised, it mostly comprised incumbents and veteran bureaucrats. But she praised them as “passionate, capable and committed”.

“Though some will say my governing team consists of familiar faces, I wish to say they all agree with my new style of governance,” she said. “Officials on fiscal matters have no disagreement with my new philosophy on public ­finance management.

“Apparently people say there is no pleasant surprise. This also means no shock. This will be a ­stable team, a team of action.”

Lam’s cabinet, with an average age of 58.7 years, will be sworn in by President Xi Jinping on July 1.

Of her 16 ministers, six are incumbents, including the top three principal secretaries – for administration, finance and justice.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, remaining as justice secretary, would not confirm reports he might not complete a five-year term and could leave after sorting out law enforcement issues for a cross-border railway project.

Eight others are internal promotees – four deputy ministers will now become heads of their bureaus and four civil servants have been elevated to ministerial rank as political appointees.

The only new face, who could arguably be held up as an example of including opposition figures, is Law Chi-kwong, a founding member of the Democratic Party and a social-policy scholar.

The current director of the Chief Executive’s Office, Edward Yau Tang-wah, will head the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. He will oversee efforts to tap into opportunities arising from China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” to revive international trade on a new Silk Route.

Lam will also ask financial chief Paul Chan Mo-po to chair an expert committee to gather views on reinforcing the city’s status as an international finance centre.

As for the lack of young faces in the line-up, Lam said principal ­officials required experience.

Lam would not be drawn into whether Beijing had turned down some of her original picks. “All the appointees today were nominated by me. They have the trust of the central government. They form my ideal team,” she said.

Asked whether she would push ahead with national security legislation, as required under ­Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and an issue that Beijing wants resolved as soon as possible to crack down on independence advocacy, Lam replied: “It is our constitutional duty to legislate Article 23 and protect national security. Different parts of the world are affected by terrorist attacks.

“But because a past attempt caused great controversy, I will first strive to create favourable conditions to enable us to handle [the matter].”

The all-so-familiar cabinet of Hong Kong leader in waiting Carrie Lam

Widespread public opposition forced the government to scrap the last attempt to enact the legislation in 2003.

On another hot potato issue, national education classes to nurture an “I am Chinese” sense of identity, Lam noted the lack of consensus when the government first tried to launch it in 2012.

“We need to help our young people understand the country better,” she said. “I believe people will agree we should use different methods to develop in our youth a national identity, affection for Hong Kong, and a global vision.”

Commentator and adviser Professor Lau Siu-kai said Lam’s team looked “conservative” and it would depend on her own will to usher in the reform and changes she had promised.