My Take

The two pressing issues for Carrie Lam’s first 100 days

Restoring public trust and winning back the hearts and minds of Hongkongers are most commonly cited as the issues the new chief executive must first tackle. But the more immediate task will more likely be demonstrating to the central government that it has placed its trust in the right person

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 1:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 1:52am

As Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor takes her oath of office today, there is no lack of free advice for the new chief executive on what she needs to do in her first 100 days.

Among the most commonly heard is the need for her to restore public trust and win back the hearts and minds of Hong Kong people. But considering how divided our society has become, it is an extremely difficult if not impossible task under the current political system. At best, it would be a longer-term objective, achievable through sustained efforts.

My guess is that Lam’s more immediate task will be to demonstrate to the central government that it has placed its trust in the right person.

There are two pressing issues that will enable her to do that. One is the contentious arrangements for so-called co-location at the Hong Kong terminal of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail. The other is to revise the study of Chinese history in secondary school.

Three policy steps that can help Carrie Lam as chief executive heal a divided Hong Kong

Since the rail link is to open in a year’s time, authorities on both sides of the border must reach an agreement soon on customs and immigration control. Most likely, Lam will end up allowing mainland officers to operate inside the Hong Kong terminal with more or less the same powers as they would across the border. They may, however, relinquish the powers of arresting and detaining people. Hopefully, such powers will stay with local officers.

There will be protests against any co-location arrangement as an assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy. But officials may hope that once travellers get used to the convenience, public opinion will shift.

Meanwhile, the Education Bureau is starting the second stage of a consultation on a revised junior secondary Chinese history curriculum, which will have more modern history, including that of Hong Kong, and less ancient history. It may be taught as an independent and compulsory subject, separate from world history.

The true ‘mountains’ that Carrie Lam has to climb

Many critics have blasted it as a back door to reintroduce the shelved “brainwashing” national education curriculum, but officials and government-friendly lawmakers have countered that it aims to make the study of history more relevant to today’s youth.

Beijing’s displeasure at the localist independence movement means it has been putting pressure on the government to step up on civic education to inculcate patriotism in school. Lam will not be able to escape this task given to her.