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Carrie Lam

Now that Carrie Lam has reached out to lawmakers, they should reciprocate

Hong Kong’s new leader has got off to a good start but effective governance is not a one-way street; legislators must play their part by cooperating where possible with the executive branch

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 2:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 2:21am

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is keen to demonstrate a new style of governance. Just five days into her term as Hong Kong’s chief executive, she is already on track to making good on one of her election promises, that on education. She also sought to address the executive branch’s strained ties with the legislature by fielding questions from lawmakers. While it appears to be a promising start, Lam should not underestimate the challenges ahead. Whether it will bring about positive changes in governance in the longer term remains to be seen.

New Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to take questions from lawmakers five days into the job

That the new leader is making an effort to rebuild trust in the government is to be welcomed. She wasted no time in visiting various districts a day after being sworn in on Saturday. Unlike her predecessor, whose walkabouts were usually marred by rowdy protesters, Lam managed to reach out to the people without too much chaos. To enhance contact with the people, she also launched her social media platform and met top media executives.

Unlike the setbacks and political scandals faced by her predecessor during the initial days, Lam and her team can focus on some real business. The new education initiatives announced yesterday are a good starting point. Having worked in government for some 37 years, the former No 2 has sensibly picked a less controversial subject to start her term. The package, which involves spending an extra HK$5 billion to improve education at all levels, was endorsed by her cabinet at its first meeting on Tuesday. So far, the feedback has been positive. Indeed, it would be political suicide for lawmakers and concerned groups to challenge what is set to benefit students and teachers.

New Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam wants to work with opposition, and Beijing isn’t saying no

Refreshing changes are also found in Lam’s approach to working with the legislature. That she initiated yesterday’s question-and-answer session just five days into office is testimony to her commitment to building a better working relationship with lawmakers.

In another subtle yet symbolic change, she chose to address lawmakers from a podium near the Legislative Council president instead of the centre-stage position used by her predecessor. She also made clear that lobbying for Legco support must be done by ministers personally. Judging from lawmakers’ response yesterday, it seems to be a good start. The usual antics and verbal fireworks aside, the 90-minute session was characterised by a general sense of goodwill that has been sorely lacking in recent years.

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But, similar to some deep-seated problems in society, the tension between the executive and the legislative branches cannot be eased overnight. Now that Lam has made a good start, lawmakers should reciprocate by working closely with the new government.

Only through concerted efforts can effective governance and public trust be restored.