Carrie Lam is becoming Hong Kong’s most hardline leader
- However, her use of existing legislation to prosecute anti-government protest leaders and a proposed national anthem law may not have gone far enough for Beijing
When former chief executive Leung Chun-ying was in power, you could often hear some old Hong Kong hands trying to comfort themselves by saying that at least he had decent people like Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor around him to serve as a moderating influence.
Now that Lam has become the city’s leader, the same public venom once directed at Leung is aimed at her. One reason for the growing public animosity is that Lam has lately decided to go the hardline route that matches or even exceeds that of her predecessor.
When Leung took on the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for inviting secessionist Andy Chan Ho-tin to give a talk and even called on the government to consider cancelling its lease, Lam and other officials originally sounded conciliatory.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government had a long and fruitful working relationship with the club and expected it to continue. Well, not any more. Lam has reportedly declined an invitation to attend its annual reception party.
Her government has since kicked Victor Mallet, an FCC representative, out of the city and effectively declared him persona non grata.
While Leung was the first to warn against the spectre of Hong Kong independence, Lam made the unprecedented move to ban Chan’s Hong Kong National Party. Lam has proved to be more hard core than Leung.
In this context, it may be useful to recall that our first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was highly critical of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act and of the Americans for trying to use it to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. That’s the act that has shielded Hong Kong from American tariffs and restrictions on technology transfer against the mainland.
The Lam administration’s response to a US Congress-appointed commission’s latest assessment of Hong Kong was uncharacteristically angry; it read like a replication of Tung’s criticism. She has evidently gone hardline like him over this issue.
Bear in mind that Tung tried but failed to legislate national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Some prominent figures in pro-government circles have started agitating for Article 23 again.
Perhaps her government’s hardline application of existing laws to prosecute anti-government protest leaders and a proposed national anthem law have not gone far enough for Beijing.
Nothing but Article 23 legislation will do now; or so it appears.