A supporter offers his back for Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee to sign an autograph for him as Ip calls for votes in Aberdeen at the Legislative Council General Election on December 19, 2021. Photo: Nora Tam
Alice Wu
Alice Wu

Regina Ip is the right choice to steer Hong Kong’s comeback as Exco convenor

  • Given her qualifications in the political arena and personal experience in overcoming setbacks, she is more than capable of shaping the terrain of Hong Kong’s political landscape
Hong Kong is definitely headed for more changes as this city enters its second half of the 25 years of the promised “ one country, two systems” arrangement. Many have been mourning the sinking of the city’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant, and some have even called its sinking a foreshadowing of this city’s future.
It might be true that this city’s political power grid is changing dramatically, from the revamped and drastically enlarged Legislative Council to the single contender in the last chief executive election. We are, however, not sailing in uncharted waters. Even though the doomsayers remain alive and kicking 25 years on, this city can still prove them wrong, just as we defied those who said before 1997 that the city’s return to Chinese rule would be its doom.
There is no fate, as a memorable line from a movie goes, only what we make of it. As fate would have it, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee – this city’s political veteran and comeback wonder – will serve as the convenor of the Executive Council come July 1. She will be the first woman to serve in the post, and the first with a political affiliation, since the handover.

This city has gone through some tough years. Ip is a great choice to take on a bigger role in steering this city in our ultimate comeback.

If we look at Ip’s career – one that spans the career she built in government, her rise through the ranks of the civil service, the role she took on as one of the early principal officials under the political accountability system beginning in 2002, her resigning as the first female security minister in 2003, her comeback as an elected lawmaker in 2008 and her founding of a political party – there is no question of her qualifications. If anything, she is overqualified, and, hopefully, perfect for the new post.

Ip’s apparent inability to be daunted by setbacks will serve Hong Kong well. To turn her career around from being one of the most publicly ridiculed figures to one of the most popular lawmakers, she has the experience, mindset and knowledge of what it will take to help the next administration in reforming the policymaking process and its image.

In short, if Hong Kong needs someone to lead its reinvention, Ip is the obvious choice. It would be best to start with the Executive Council first.

Bound by confidentiality and collective accountability, Exco has, for the most part, been very low-key while working hard in playing its crucial role in helping the chief executive formulate policies quietly and behind the curtain of power.

As required in the Basic Law, the chief executive is required to consult the council before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subordinate legislation or dissolving the legislature. The chief executive also must obtain the support of the majority of Executive Council, and the chief executive is required to provide an explanation should they go against the decision of Exco.

A quick guide to who’s who on incoming team of Hong Kong leader John Lee

While the business of the Legislative Council is conducted mostly in a fishbowl, the bulk of the Executive Council’s work is done away from the public eye and without public scrutiny.

The public impression of secrecy that is associated with the highest levels of power has at times put Executive Council members in a tight spot, especially for those who are also Legco members. Their inherent need to support government policies and having taken part in the decision and policymaking process, being openly critical of the administration is a tough balancing act, to say the least.

Ip has remained outspoken and critical of the government while retaining a seat in Exco. We can count on Ip to redefine the role of Exco, as well as Legco, in very practical ways.

Let’s not forget that Ip has first-hand experience in widening the political spectrum in the pro-establishment camp, so she is more than capable of shaping the terrain of Hong Kong’s evolving political landscape. Without an opposition in the government, Ip can play an essential role as a bridge between the Legislative and Executive Councils.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA