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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says lobbying is job of ministers alone, amid claims of Beijing meddling

At first Legco Q&A session, new chief executive announces measures to improve relationship between administration and legislators

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 11:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 9:11am

New Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor has told her ministers they must lobby lawmakers and not leave the job to anyone else.

Her instructions on Wednesday ­followed accusations that officials from Beijing’s liaison office had been involved during the term of predecessor Leung Chun-ying.

They were among four measures the new chief executive ­announced at her first question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council aimed at improving the soured relationship between the city’s executive and legislative branches.

Instead of following the ­example of Leung and speaking from a stage set up in front of the Legco president’s seat, Lam spoke to the right of Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

Her office said this was ­because better communication was needed with the president. Lawmakers saw the move as a sign of respect for the legislature.

They must ­personally lobby lawmakers – the task must not be left to anybody else
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

“I will set an example myself and require my principal officials to have more interaction with lawmakers ... They must ­personally lobby lawmakers – the task must not be left to anybody else,” Lam said.

Over the past five years, officials from the liaison office were accused of lobbying lawmakers from across the political spectrum to support certain policy proposals. This drew criticism from some legislators as the central government had promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

When asked by Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu whether she would ask the office to stick to its “original role of­ ­liaison”, Lam replied: “As the chief executive, I am the head of the executive branch, and I will make sure that it does its own work.

“That’s why I said all ministers need to lobby lawmakers ­personally and not leave it to anyone else.”

But she also asked Yeung “not to be too sensitive” about the work of the liaison office in the city.

Under Article 22 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, no mainland authority may interfere in affairs which Hong Kong administers on its own under its high degree of autonomy.

In the run-up to the leadership race in March, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing had proposed legislation to make interference in such affairs a criminal offence.

Countering a suggestion by Yeung that she should push for such a law, Lam said she had no such plans.

The other three measures to improve executive-legislative ties included the setting up of a regular communication mechanism with different parties and groups.

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She would also attend the question-and-answer session more often than the old practice of a maximum four times a year.

Lam has also decided to ­advance the announcement of the annual policy address from January to October when the ­Legco session resumes.

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Lam took 12 questions from lawmakers on various issues, including one from Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who demanded she promise to relaunch the political reform process to achieve popular ballot for the city’s leadership in 2022.

But Lam said: “If I relaunch the process, and there’s serious internal strife in the city, the economy would be stagnant and people’s lives would not improve, then I would be a failure in my job as the person most responsible [for these areas].”