Carrie Lam

Next Hong Kong leader plays down threat of independence advocates in talks with Chinese officials

Carrie Lam also says she signed petition opposing ministerial system when it was introduced in 2002

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 11:21pm

Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says she has told mainland Chinese officials that the idea of Hong Kong independence is supported by very few and has not gained ground as a popular ideology.

The incoming leader also revealed she signed a petition opposing the current ministerial system when it was introduced in 2002

Lam appeared to be calming waters after No 3 state leader Zhang Dejiang sounded a stern warning to Hong Kong two weeks ago, urging the government to enact a national security law to suppress separatist attempts.

State leader Zhang Dejiang declares Beijing’s power to ‘supervise’ Hong Kong civil servants’ allegiance

Interviewed by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing on a Cable TV programme aired on Saturday, Lam was asked whether she felt that Beijing’s tougher stance was due to a “rising wave of ideas” about independence.

“It may have a little to do with that, but I have often told mainland officials and friends that I have reservations about [the view] that the independence idea had become a so-called ‘wave’,” she said, adding that “it had not yet become a trend”.

“There is a very small group of people pushing for that, and I don’t know their motive for pushing the idea, which is not feasible and should not be raised.”

The city’s pan-democratic politicians, she said, had an agenda of improving and protecting the existing system, rather than advocating separatism.

With only three weeks to go before she assumes office on July 1, Lam remained tight-lipped about her cabinet line-up, only revealing that she would not need any time to get to know her team because she had had a lengthy working relationship with members.

Lam has so far failed to inject young blood and outside talent into her team. The Post earlier reported that there would be only one outsider – pan-democrat Law Chi-kwong – among the 16 ministers she will nominate for Beijing’s approval.

The other posts are poised to be filled by either incumbents or those promoted from within the government.

Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam will still have to rely on some old hands to fill her governing team

Lam implied that it was difficult to attract talent under the current ministerial system introduced by then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2002. The so-called principal officials accountability system opened the positions for heads of policy bureaus to outsiders. They were previously filled by civil servants.

“I was one of those [civil servants] who signed a petition against it,” she revealed. “To this day, there are still things to which I don’t have an answer. Where do we find talent? If the chief executive cannot have a party background, how can she ensure her team is wholeheartedly united?”

Under the Basic Law, the city’s leader cannot be a member of any political party.

Lam said she felt that her administration should shoulder the responsibility of grooming a pool of talented political leaders to make sure good governance could continue in future.