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Carrie Lam

Meet incoming Hong Kong leader’s hand-picked executive team (and this time there are a few surprises)

Appointments announced a day after unveiling of Carrie Lam’s cabinet

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 6:00am

A day after unveiling no-surprise cabinet, Hong Kong’s leader-in-waiting Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor introduced several new faces to her top executive body, including a moderate pan-democrat and a finance heavyweight.

The appointment of non-official members to the Executive Council on Thursday contrasted with the chief executive-elect’s cabinet announcement, which was said to contain no surprises as all but one minister were either inherited from predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s team or recruited from the civil service.

Exco, comprising the principal ministers and 16 non-official members, works with the chief executive to improve policies that have been discussed in policy bureaus to ensure successful passage in the Legislative Council.

The members work on the principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility. If the chief executive does not accept a majority opinion from Exco, he has to put the specific reasons on record.

Incumbent Exco member Bernard Chan, also the head of Lam’s campaign office, has been elevated to convenor of the top government decision-making body.

Lam also broke away from Leung’s practice of not appointing pan-democrats to Exco by picking former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah. Tong quit the Civic Party in 2015 and later founded middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy.

Finance heavyweight Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, is another newcomer, while Laura Cha Shih May-lung, who chairs the Financial Services Department Council, will remain. Lam earlier dubbed Chan, Yam and Cha as the trio that she could rely upon on when it came to financial affairs.

New cabinet, new headaches for incoming Hong Kong government even before Day 1

New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who quit Exco last year to join the chief executive race, will also make a comeback, backtracking on an earlier pledge.

Ip, who had failed to garner sufficient nominations to run for the top post, had once said that she was not interested in joining Exco as a non-official member or becoming chief secretary.

Asked about her decision to return, Ip said: “I did not go to ask to be appointed. [Carrie Lam] invited me to join, so I accepted the invitation.”

She said she had consulted her party and hoped her Exco membership would help expand NPP’s influence at the higher levels of government.

“For a political party, it cannot confine its role to only barking, biting, attacking the government,” Ip said, adding that she appreciated that as an Exco member, she needed to support the government’s policies.

Legislator Wong Kwok-kin will succeed Cheng Yiu-tong as the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions’ representative in Exco.

Another new face is Lam Ching-choi, head of NGO Haven of Hope Christian Service. He is chairman of the government’s Elderly Commission.

Lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a key member of Lam’s campaign, and ex-legislator Ip Kwok-him will represent the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, alongside Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung and Kenneth Lau Ip-keung of the Business and Professionals Alliance. Lau is also chairman of rural body Heung Yee Kuk.

Meanwhile, Martin Liao Cheung-kong, the convenor of the pro-establishment camp; the Liberal Party’s Tommy Cheung Yu-yan; and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chairman Chow Chung-kong will remain.

Two trusted allies of the outgoing chief executive – Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun – will also stay on.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said of his former party colleague’s appointment: “I am not sure why Ronny Tong was appointed. But if [Carrie Lam] wants to enhance communication with the pan-democrats [with Tong’s appointment], I’d like to say that Tong cannot represent the pan-democrats. When he quit the Civic Party, he said he would seek a third road.”

Watch: Hong Kong’s new cabinet filled with familiar faces

Yeung also questioned if there would be a conflict of roles with so many legislators appointed to Exco, where members are supposed to hold collective responsibility for government decisions and to support government policies.

“I doubt that those lawmakers can continue to perform the role of monitoring the government in their role as elected public representatives,” Yeung said.

In response to Yeung’s remarks, Tong said: “My task is not to represent anyone but to give a different perspective to the administration and act as a bridge. Whether I can do that depends on whether anyone is willing to cross that bridge.”

Another new appointee, FTU’s Wong Kwok-kin, said he appreciated the need for collective responsibility for Exco members.

“But that does not mean I have to toe the government line when there is voting in Legco,” Wong said when asked if he would support controversial labour policies on issues such as standard working hours if they were put to a vote in Legco after being endorsed by Exco.

As the chief executive is barred from having any party affiliation and thus does not have a solid supporting base in the legislature, it is common practice for the leader to name representatives from different parties to Exco in a bid to ensure that bills and policies will be approved in the Legislative Council.

Full list of non-official Exco members

Convenor:

Bernard Chan, president, Asia Financial Holdings

Members:

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, barrister, former Civic Party lawmaker, convenor of Path of Democracy*

Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, former Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive*

Lam Ching-choi, Elderly Commission chairman*

Laura Cha Shih May-lung, independent non-executive director of HSBC, former China Securities Regulatory Commission vice-chairman

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, University of Hong Kong council chairman, former education minister

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, former government official and director of Leung Chun-ying’s election campaign

Chow Chung-kong, chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing

From pro-establishment parties:

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, New People’s Party chairwoman

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker*

Ip Kwok-him, former DAB lawmaker

Wong Kwok-kin, Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker*

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker

Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, Heung Yee Kuk chairman*

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, Legco pro-establishment camp convenor

Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, Liberal Party chairman

* new members