City Beat

Will Hong Kong pan-democrats deign to interact with chief executive-elect Carrie Lam?

Both the new leader and those in the democratic camp will determine how the city’s political landscape will be reshaped

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 2:35am

Now that the final curtain has lifted, the city’s new leader is Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. But she may not have the time or be in the mood to celebrate as it means an immediate start to a five-year term that is promising to be a rough ride for her.

The irony is, both her victory and anticipated difficulties could all be the result of Beijing’s covert and overt support for her.

For those who once actively advocated the “ABC” (Anyone but CY) campaign, especially the pan-democrats, were they actually against outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying the person? Or Lam, who is labelled CY 2.0? Or simply whoever takes up this unenviable job, since that person must also be trusted by and accountable to the central government?

This has long been a big question mark in Beijing’s mind. Unfortunately, the central government’s suspicions may be further reinforced due to the “all-in” strategy of the pan-democratic camp in supporting John Tsang Chun-wah, the former financial secretary who lost his leadership bid on Sunday.

The third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, had earlier questioned why the pan-democrats turned him down – even though he was ideologically more close to their political stand – and instead backed Tsang, who is considered pro-establishment.

Understandably, that was the camp’s attempt at playing “king maker”, but the Chinese saying “the more one is loved, the more one can be harmed” may well illustrate why their “love” turned into the “kiss of death” for Tsang.

People are free to disagree with Beijing, but when some from the camp openly claimed that Tsang was the only one who could stand up to “meddling” from the central government, it led to the consequence of Beijing concluding that the pan-democrats were not willing to accept someone it trusted. That was instead of convincing Beijing that Tsang was the right one to unite a divided city.

So, where will the relationship between the pan-democrats and Beijing go now? And how will they deal with Lam in future?

Relatively speaking, Lam can be said to have cultivated a certain working relationship with some of the pan-democrats. She claimed during the campaign that she had some “good friends whom I’ve known for decades” from the camp.

At one point she even expected a few of their votes could be turned over to her in Sunday’s secret ballot.

Whether that was wishful thinking on Lam’s part cannot be proved yet, but it is also true that over the years, Lam has been able to set up meetings with some opposition politicians to discuss sensitive issues, including the ill-fated political reform process three years ago.

She also made phone calls to some of them during the campaign to explain her platform, though not everyone in the opposition camp was willing to talk to her.

Of course such relationships are fragile, and now that she’s No 1 in government, it could mean a total change of the nature of her relations with them politically.

As for Beijing earlier deciding to reissue travel documents to those who have long been banned from entering the mainland – a gesture seen as an attempt to create a less confrontational atmosphere – the pan-democrats have not been very enthusiastic about reapplying for their home return permits.

Was attacking Lam a campaign strategy or a long-term plan? Will they interact or not with Lam and Beijing and under what conditions? These are key questions for the camp in these post-election days.

Surely, it takes two to tango, so whatever Lam and Beijing will do to keep moving forward with such relations is also a vital matter.

The city’s future political landscape will very much be reshaped accordingly.