My Take

Working against Lam could backfire for pan-dems

Opposition lawmakers have united in their opposition to Carrie Lam becoming chief executive, but if they cause her to fail she will be the last moderate leader Beijing will allow

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 3:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 3:14am

All the opposition lawmakers who sit on the Election Committee have released a joint statement saying they oppose chief executive front runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and that there is no mutual trust between the two sides.

So, assuming Lam wins on Sunday, the localists and pan-democrats have now declared they will not work with her. This is despite her offer of cooperation. Let’s say she had no intention to honour her pledge. Shouldn’t they at least test her first and expose her “bad faith” before taking the high road?

Trust is built – and peace is made – between enemies, not friends. It was the anti-government camp who started the ABC (Anyone but CY) campaign. They won, and Beijing decided not to shove Leung Chun-ying down Hong Kong’s throat for a second term. Secretly, most of the opposition members must have felt disappointed to lose such an easy target.

Pro-establishment no-shows at Hong Kong CE race debate caused Lam to feel the heat

Now they have to work hard to build a case that Lam is another CY. It’s a complete mischaracterisation, and most of the old-hand democrats know it. Lam was on good terms with most of them throughout her civil service career – especially during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003-04 and when she was head of social welfare. It was only the ill-fated government political reform package that pitted her against them. Even before the central government published the so-called 831 position paper placing restrictions on universal suffrage in 2014, the two sides were on speaking terms.

By their civil service training and temperament, Lam is much closer to election rival John Tsang Chun-wah and former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen than Leung. But the pan-dems want to make her out to be a closet dictator. They clearly plan to stymie Lam at every turn, and from the start, just as they did with Leung.

Pan-democrats pledge more than 290 votes for John Tsang in Hong Kong leadership race

But if Lam fails over the next five years, she will be the last moderate leader the central government is willing to tolerate in Hong Kong. Beijing will not magically go democratic on us; it will simply take a hardline stance towards a troublesome city that is being overtaken by its mainland rivals and one that can be sacrificed without too high a cost.

Oh, but what if John Tsang wins? Unlikely, but then the opposition will have to turn on him and make him out to be CY3.0.