By bringing students into her tent, Carrie Lam has opened their eyes
Young pro-democracy activists who joined the chief executive-elect’s team learned more from campaigning than simply protesting
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says she wants to bring more young people into the next government to bridge divisions in our society. So, as a first step, she hired more than a dozen student assistants to help run her campaign in the chief executive race.
Being inclusive? Giving young people a taste of political campaigning? Apparently not. First, the usual localist suspects rounded on several of Lam’s young assistants who had previously taken part in anti-government protests as traitors to the cause. Now, Lam’s campaign team is accused of paying the students too much – about HK$100 per hour. One student worked so many hours he ended up earning HK$20,000 in a month. Quickly, someone call the ICAC!
Somehow, I suspect this pseudo-controversy has little to do with their payment, but more with the fact that they had worked for Lam at all. Well, that just undermines the localist and pan-democratic narrative that Lam is as bad as outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying who just wants to divide our society and turn us against each other.
Localist luminaries Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Derek Lam Shun-hin and Billy Fung Jing-en have denounced those student assistants for working for Lam.
Among her young campaign helpers was Marco Li Chun-lam, who was previously a member of the defunct Scholarism that rallied against the government’s national education curriculum in 2012. Some members of the activist group GeNext, with which Li had close ties, were also part of Lam’s campaign team. Other campaign assistants included “Bon Bon” Chow Ting-pong, a former localist activist at City University; his former university comrade Alan Kwok Tung-wong; and another ex-student activist Yim Chak-hong, who was formerly at the Hang Seng Management College.
Are these young people turncoats? Hardly. Indeed, I find them wholly admirable. The young have a way of being intolerant and intransigent. Having been convinced of the rightness of their cause, those who disagree with them must be evil.
But changing one’s position does not necessarily mean betraying one’s principles; rather, it is a sign of intellectual and emotional maturity. It means learning to appreciate the position and arguments of the other side, that there is more than one way to look at things.
Maybe Lam is just being cynical. After all, Lyndon Johnson famously said it was “better to have them inside the tent p***ing out than outside p***ing in”.
Whatever her motive, I am all for bringing more young people inside the tent.