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Carrie Lam

New Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to take questions from lawmakers five days into the job

Source says chief executive will confirm her pledge to spend additional HK$5 billion on education so legislators can approve funding as soon as possible

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 8:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 11:30pm

Hong Kong’s leader in waiting is extending an olive branch to lawmakers by taking questions from them just five days after assuming office.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would also honour her election promise to spend HK$5 billion on education, a source from the new administration said.

In another development, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office revealed on Friday that its director, Wang Guangya, had conducted one-on-one “dialogues” in Shenzhen with Lam’s top officials.

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Photos uploaded to the office’s website show Wang sitting down separately with the top three secretaries – for administration, finance and justice.

The Legislative Council issued a notice on Friday morning informing members that Lam would attend a 90-minute question-and-answer session on July 5.

The source said Lam would announce plans to increase recurrent expenditure for education by HK$5 billion so it could be voted on as soon as possible.

Lam’s decision to meet legislators in her first week in office “reflects the fact that she attaches great importance to Legco”, the source said.

“She wants to maintain better relations with Legco,” he said, adding that Lam would go to Legco more often than past chief executives.

Some lawmakers earlier suggested she come once a month.

The outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, gave his first question-and-answer session on his 16th day in office back in 2012. He has since attended such sessions at irregular intervals.

Since 2016, he has answered lawmakers’ questions four times, two of which were on his policy addresses.

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Lam, whose cabinet members were appointed by Beijing this week, will be sworn in by President Xi Jinping on July 1.

She has said she wants to focus on less controversial policies before tackling thorny issues such as constitutional reform.

According to educators who met Lam earlier, the leader will use part of the HK$5 billion to increase the number of teachers in primary and secondary schools.

Money will also be used to give vouchers to secondary school leavers who have to take costly self-financing degree programmes because there are insufficient publicly subsidised places in universities.

One more initiative will be to give money to schools to hire more information technology professionals to help teachers’ preparation work.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai noted Lam’s intention to improve the administration’s relations with the legislature, which turned sour during Leung’s term.

“While she is yet to formulate other policies, we will ask her whether she will right the wrongs done by Leung,” he said.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, called on the pan-democratic camp to stop filibustering ongoing funding requests “as a way to respond to Lam’s sincerity”.

Separately, Lam, in an interview with US broadcaster CNN, said the detention of Hong Kong booksellers in mainland China was not an issue for the Hong Kong government to take up.

In 2015, five booksellers from Causeway Bay Books disappeared and later turned up in the custody of mainland authorities. There were concerns over whether mainland agents had unlawfully abducted them.

Lam said it would be inappropriate for Hong Kong officials “to challenge what happened on the mainland”. She said she needed evidence before concluding whether any mainland agents had acted beyond their powers and enforced the law in Hong Kong.

She added she shared people’s concern that the incident would give rise to fear that “one country, two systems” was being eroded and she would address those worries.

Angela Gui, daughter of one of those detained, Gui Minhai, critcised Lam for referring “to the rule of law and ‘one country, two systems’ to excuse politically motivated kidnappings.”