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Carrie Lam

New Hong Kong leader denies trying to shed ‘CY 2.0’ label by undoing Leung policies

She suggests shelving plan to scrap MPF offset mechanism, reopening Civic Square and not overriding cabinet opinions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 11:35pm

Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday denied deliberately distancing herself from her unpopular predecessor Leung Chun-ying by undoing some of his controversial policies.

In her fourth day in office, Lam had already floated three ideas seen as contrasting with Leung’s earlier moves.

These included her suggestion of shelving Leung’s proposal on scrapping the Mandatory Provident Fund offsetting mechanism – a controversial arrangement that allows employers to dip into workers’ pension funds for severance and long-service payments – and to consider reopening Civic Square, a space popular with protesters outside government headquarters, which was sealed off in 2014.

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Lam said Leung failed to win consensus on the MPF offset mechanism.

On Tuesday morning, Lam made a further pledge to avoid pushing ahead with policies without majority support from her cabinet – in contrast to Leung, who in 2013 denied broadcaster HKTV a free-to-air TV licence despite objections from senior advisers.

Ahead of the first meeting with her Executive Council as chief executive, Lam said of her actions: “These are not deliberate attempts [to distance the administration from Leung’s].”

Lam said the handover from the last administration was smooth and her predecessor had helped to speed up her election promise of an extra HK$5 billion for education.

“The transition [of administrations] was certainly smooth and successful,” she added.

If we can handle the security ... issues, I’m inclined to think it is suitable to adopt a more open approach
Carrie Lam on reopening Civic Square

On the MPF offset issue, Lam said each administration might draw different views after considering public opinion, but she added that the government would continue to listen to all sides.

She said she would review the decision to reopen Civic Square, which was stormed by activists at the start of the 79-day Occupy movement in 2014. Her stance stood in stark contrast to Leung’s decision to maintain the closure of the area due to security concerns.

“If we can handle the security and management issues, I’m inclined to think it is suitable to adopt a more open approach,” Lam said.

She also vowed to improve the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government, which she had earlier said was vital to smooth governance.

The biggest indication in what is seen as her attempt to shake off her label as “CY 2.0” – a reference to her former boss – was Lam’s pledge to secure strong Exco support before pressing on with policies.

She was addressing media questions on Tuesday over how she could dispel the impression that Exco was dominated by the chief executive – a situation critics said occurred during Leung’s tenure.

Lam cited the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which states that the city’s leader must put specific reasons on record if he or she moves ahead with a decision that has failed to win majority support from Exco.

She said: “I believe not only me – but also any chief executive – would not want to see the government having to frequently put [such disagreements] on the record.”

One way to ensure policies would win the support of Exco members, she said, was to invite them to exchange views with ministers in the earlier stages of policymaking.

Lam also said she hoped the seven lawmakers in Exco would bring in views from the legislature instead of simply rubber-stamping government policies.

Meanwhile, the chief executive said she would not intervene in investigations – if there were any – regarding Leung’s case of an undeclared HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL.