Carrie Lam admits Hong Kong could do more to teach its young people about China
City’s new chief executive tries to quash fears of ‘brainwashing’ as she echoes President Xi Jinping’s views on issue
Hong Kong’s newly minted leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Sunday admitted official efforts to improve young people’s understanding of the mainland could be improved, even as she sought to quash fears of “brainwashing”.
Lam’s admission came a day after President Xi Jinping warned at the local government’s inauguration that Hong Kong must not cross the “red line” of undermining national sovereignty, and called for more education for civil servants and youngsters on China’s constitution, history and the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
Xi ,who spent three days visiting the city before leaving on Sunday, said there was a need for a “correct” interpretation of “one country” in the “one country, two systems” principle and that love of history and culture of the Chinese nation was vital.
Lam tackled this and other questions a day after her inauguration as she zigzagged across Hong Kong over five hours to meet people in Ta Kwu Ling village and Hung Hom housing estate before concluding her tour at the heritage venue PMQ in Sheung Wan. The choice of locations underlined her policy priorities in land, housing and conservation.
Lam said the government had been trying “for a long time” to deepen understanding – especially among young people – of “one country, two systems”, the Basic Law and the nation’s development. “There is room for doing it more deeply and widely in schools and communities,” she said.
“But the ways to do it are open for discussion. I don’t hope to see that whenever we talk about increasing young people’s understanding about the country, [the notion] would be labelled as ‘brainwashing’. Hongkongers are so used to thinking independently and there is a vibrant flow of information here, and it’s impossible they would be affected by any kind of brainwashing.”
She was also asked about the Mandatory Provident Fund offsetting mechanism, which allows employers to offset long-service and severance payments with their contributions to staff MPF accounts.
Last month, the Executive Council backed the government’s proposal to scrap the mechanism. But employers slammed the move as being bad for business, while unionists were unhappy over a new formula for payments.
Lam signalled she would not rush to implement the measure, saying she would “listen to both the employees and employers and strive to reach a consensus”.
While housing and labour rights are among Lam’s priorities, the chief executive said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV that her most urgent task was to mend the city’s political rifts by “finding a middle ground”.
“I will be taking the initiative to lead discussions for people and political parties with conflicting opinions,” Lam said.
However, much would depend, she said, on the response of political groups, something that was “beyond” her control.
“I can only promise to do my utmost in building the communications between government and the Legislative Council,” Lam said.
Meanwhile, League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen went to Wan Chai police headquarters on Sunday to file a report of an alleged police attack on Saturday.
Ng claimed he was dragged into a police vehicle and attacked by two officers, which left his forehead, back and wrists wounded and bruised.
Asked about the claim, Lam would only say: “The police are a civilised disciplined force ... if any protester felt unfairly treated by officers he could file a complaint.”
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung