Carrie Lam’s first year a positive change but more must be done
Elected as chief executive last year with the campaign slogan ‘We Connect’, Lam has arguably made good progress, especially against the backdrop of the turbulence the city has gone through in recent years. But now she must show she can rise to meet a greater challenge
Against the backdrop of turbulence the city has gone through in recent years, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s first year in office as chief executive is no doubt a positive turnaround for many Hongkongers.
The social atmosphere is relatively calmer and the new government has made a good start in tackling a wide range of deep-seated problems. Thanks to her rich administrative experience, governance has also become more efficient.
But for those who look for more concrete results, there is still much to be done.
Elected last year with the campaign slogan “We Connect”, Lam has arguably made good progress. The political tension built up over previous years has somewhat eased. There has been less confrontation in the legislature.
The bitter memories of constitutional reform and the 2014 Occupy protests have gradually faded away, but the political divide that arose still prevails. Unlike her predecessor who was busy tackling waves of political scandals in his first year, Lam was able to roll out her agenda smoothly until last December, when the new secretary for justice was embroiled in a series of scandals involving illegal structures at her properties.
But the Lam administration appears to have weathered the storm. It also has had to deal with some highly controversial issues left behind by the previous administration, such as the disqualification of lawmakers for failing to take their oath of office properly, the jailing of student activists and, eventually, the outcome of the trials of Benny Tai Yiu-ting and others involved in the Occupy protests.
The veteran public officer, to her credit, has broached some difficult problems with fresh thinking. This includes making subsidised housing more affordable by delinking the price from the market rate, and taxing new unsold flats to speed up supply.
Along with greater commitment to developing innovation and technology and efforts in promoting the national “Belt and Road Initiative” and the “Greater Bay Area” integration, a blueprint for better development is in place.
Amid growing international concerns over Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong affairs, Lam has put much effort into building the city’s image overseas. The real challenge, however, lies in the accurate implementation of “one country, two systems”.
Although localism and pro-independence sentiments have become less vocal, the need to strictly adhere to one country while maintaining two systems has never been greater. As the bridge between Beijing and Hong Kong, Lam needs to play a better role in fostering better mutual understanding, without which many cross-border and national developments cannot be achieved smoothly.
The past 12 months has been a testing time for the new leader. Having made steady progress in her first year, Lam must show that she can rise to meet a greater challenge.