My Take

Take me to your (credible) leader: why Carrie Lam could lead Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 1:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 9:52am

If Martians accidentally landed in the Legislative Council yesterday morning during Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's speech, they might be forgiven for thinking she was the real leader of Hong Kong.

In a classy white suit with a matching pearl necklace and earrings, the chief secretary delivered the government's controversial electoral reform package with a combination of gravitas and sincerity.

We have been endlessly debating how to elect the next chief executive. The more practical question, for me anyway, is whether we have anybody who fits the part amidst our legions of mediocrities and vultures waiting in the wings.

For sure, everyone already knows the reform proposal is deeply flawed. The pan-democrats are right: it's not the kind of electoral system that would pass muster if Hong Kong were not under Beijing's thumb. But we are. For those of us who are not idealists, we are in the salvage business.

The Hong Kong government desperately needs a credible leader after three disappointing chief executives. Who has the experience, integrity and trustworthiness for the job? Whatever election system we end up with, that's still a question that needs to be addressed.

In the past year, Lam has been given the most thankless job of having to sell the dodgy election reform package to a highly sceptical public. That is a job that should have been for her boss, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. It is, after all, about our collective political future. But given his unpopularity and almost visceral hate many people feel about him, it was a wise decision to let Lam spearhead the sales job - that as well as running Leung's beleaguered administration so it did not completely crash.

It's easy for pan-dems to take the moral high ground and speak truth to power without having to suffer any consequence or sanctions. It's far more challenging for people in office of responsibility who have to hand the public the bitter pill to swallow. Lam has done that without being completely discredited. Should the government's proposed reform fail as it's likely, Lam may have to stand in to govern an increasingly ungovernable Hong Kong after 2017.