My Take

Carrie Lam is simply kicking the can down the road

Chief executive hopeful is dodging the issues that really matter – reform of our political and education systems, tackling the Heung Yee Kuk and making better use of our massive fiscal reserves 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 2:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 2:00am

After the revolution, the restoration.

People worry Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would become the female Leung Chun-ying. In fact, if she is elected to be the next chief executive, she is more likely to become Donald 2.0. With the release of her latest policy platform, it looks like she is trying to avoid rocking the boat. Like Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, she has been a career civil servant after all.

You may recall that after Tsang took the top job when Tung Chee-hwa unexpectedly quit in 2005, his first task was to stabilise the government, especially the civil service. And then he quickly reversed, or forgot about, his predecessor’s ambitious reform plans – in education and taxation, housing and health care.

Tung tried but failed to legislate an anti-subversion, sedition and secession law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, causing half a million people to march in the streets in protest. When Tsang came to power, Article 23 almost never passed his lips.

Leung tried to introduce Beijing’s version of universal suffrage under the government’s failed political reform package. It led to the three-month occupation of three key districts in Hong Kong by protesters in 2014.

Carrie Lam storms ahead in Hong Kong leadership race

Lam is honest enough to admit that if she wins, she would not try to revive Article 23 or political reform – unless conditions change significantly. To do so, she argues, would invite more conflicts and acrimony without any promise of success.

She will continue to focus on housing supply, which is a no-brainer. Otherwise, what she now promises is to tinker at the edges. This means creating new bureaus for tourism and culture; revamping the Central Policy Unit currently headed by the unpopular and hardline Shiu Sin-por; hire more young people as advisers, whatever that means; cancel a hated territory-wide test for Primary Three pupils; and subsidise more MTR fares.

So far, so lame.

She is not likely to touch any of the hard stuff. Forget about reforming the Medical Council with tougher supervision for private doctors; taking on the Heung Yee Kuk over the small-house policy and illegal occupation of public land in the New Territories; re-examining the education system such as the Diploma of Secondary Education exams and the curriculum on which it is based; and reforming public finance such as channelling the massive trillion-dollar reserves back into the community.

Let’s kick more cans down the road.