Never speak ill of the dead. I extend this dictum to those who are politically dead. And that’s what retiring Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor really is. Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a close ally on the Executive Council, wrote a heartfelt defence of Lam after she announced she wouldn’t seek a second term. He was widely ridiculed. He claimed Lam did much for the people, yet didn’t name what those achievements were. He insisted that she had been misunderstood, without explaining how. Well, we could perhaps guess. Tong might have been referring to her responses to the 2019 violent unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the so-called fifth wave of the Omicron outbreak. Both have been almost universally condemned or at least criticised by both the opposition and those allied with Beijing. The 2019 unrest effectively ended Hong Kong status as an SAR – or a protected entity separate from the rest of the country – for most Western governments. Omicron, for a time, supposedly resulted in the city having the world’s highest mortality rate. That statistical claim, however, is highly questionable. But be that as it may. Consider the swift and harsh responses of the Canadian and American governments – both being, hypocritically, highly vocal in their criticism throughout 2019 – respectively to the truck drivers’ protests and the riot in the Capitol to overturn the last US presidential election. By comparison, both the local government and police had shown undue forbearance of the violent protesters and rioters. Lam likely tried to preserve some liberal tolerance for protests. But in the end, neither the government nor the opposition could control a radicalised anti-government/China movement spinning out of control. Finally, the Gordian knot of deep-seated social-political problems could not be untied and had to be brutally cut through by the national security law. Carrie Lam declines to seek second term, leaving behind a divided Hong Kong Meanwhile, judging by the low mortality rate (before the Omicron outbreak) and the rapid economic recovery last year, Hong Kong’s performance compared favourably with most developed economies around the world. Any local resident who wanted a vaccine jab could get one or three. During the fifth wave, while Lam adhered to the mainland rhetoric of “zero Covid”, her government’s actions resembled cities that adopted a “living with Covid” strategy; it still does today. Did Lam do well for Hong Kong? Probably not. Could anyone have done better in her shoes from the local “talent” pool? I doubt it.