Hong Kong’s new decision makers refute critics as they prepare to contribute fresh views

Education, housing and elderly issues among areas where Carrie Lam’s new Exco members hope to make a mark

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:48pm

Their terms have not officially begun, but the new members of Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s top executive body are already having to fend off critics and assert their own strengths in the realm of policymaking.

Speaking on a radio programme, Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the government’s Elderly Commission, addressed concerns about his being appointed to the Executive Council despite a lack of political experience. The 16 non-official members of the body, who will work with the city’s principal ministers, were announced on Thursday and included six new faces.

“It is true that I do not do much pure political work, but I am involved in a lot of livelihood matters,” he said.

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Lam added that in his more than 10 years on the commission, he had met a lot of ordinary Hongkongers and members of political and pressure groups. He also pointed out that he was an appointed district councillor many years ago.

“Ever since I became the chairman of the Elderly Commission, [Carrie Lam] has asked me about how our schemes are going and whether they are helping those in need,” he said.

Lam admitted to having concerns about taking on an Exco role because of the heavy responsibility and commitment involved, but said he did so in order to contribute to policymaking on elderly issues.

“Since we will have a chief executive who cares so much about the lower-income groups and the elderly, I thought it was a good thing that I would have the opportunity to work in Exco and work with different policy bureaus and departments to help Hong Kong prepare for an ageing population.”

Another new appointee, Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a key member of Lam’s campaign and a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his grassroots background would be beneficial for his new role.

“As someone from a small middle-class family with very young children, I care about issues such as education and housing, and I believe I can bring these voices to the government through Exco,” he said.

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Cheung also responded to former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping’s claim that Exco no longer comprised the cream of the crop from different occupations, with members who were respected and had many years of public trust. Instead, Wong said, the public now saw Exco appointments as a system of rewards for members of political parties with no special achievements.

Cheung explained that the relationship between the government and legislature had changed, and it was important for Exco to include members of political parties, especially those that supported the government, for better communication.

He said that changes in society meant it was good to have people with different perspectives on the Exco, pointing to himself as someone who could offer the views of the young and the middle class.