Peace returns to Hong Kong’s legislature as new leader Carrie Lam attends first session – but how long will honeymoon last?
City’s new chief executive immediately rings changes by speaking from stage next to Legislative Council president rather than in front of him as her predecessor Leung Chun-ying did
A long-forgotten peace resumed in the Legislative Council on Wednesday as the city’s new leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended her first question-and-answer session – which did not end up in a war of words.
While radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was again ousted from the chamber as he protested against Lam for not implementing a universal pension scheme, lawmakers from both sides agreed the meeting was more constructive and peaceful than those attended by Lam’s predecessor Leung Chun-ying.
Lam’s first Q&A session also saw a notable change in the chamber’s setting. Instead of following Leung’s arrangement and speaking from a stage in front of the Legco president, Lam spoke from the president’s right, resuming the practice of Leung’s predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Leung courted controversy when he first moved the stage in January 2014 to deliver his policy speech. His office explained at the time that the lighting for the new location “would be better”.
A spokesman for Lam’s office said the revised setting would allow the chief executive to communicate better with Legco president, if the need arose.
Most mainstream pan-democrats offered a gesture of goodwill by standing up when Lam entered and left the chamber – something they refused to do during Leung’s reign, when relations were tense.
“I felt good. We could have solid exchanges on policies, instead of [having a chief executive] who only picks quarrels,” Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said.
“The flow of the session is smooth as, unlike Leung, Lam is familiar with the policies and well-prepared – though some of her answers have failed to satisfy us.”
But Chan warned the honeymoon period might not be long as Lam soon had to deal with a hot potato – the establishment of a joint immigration facility for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.
Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai welcomed Lam’s move to speak from beside the president, saying it showed the top official’s respect for the legislature.
“Leung insisted on speaking in front of the Legco president, which was seen as a move to dwarf the legislature,” Wu said.
New People’s Party Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the change had shown Lam’s attempts to distance herself from Leung.
“It is a good start and I’m glad Lam has shown she is willing to work with different parties,” Ip said.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said she was glad to see a harmonious start for the new administration.
Writing on her Facebook page, Lam said she was nervous and half excited to be back in Legco as she loved to debate with lawmakers.
“After the 90-minute Q&A session, my first impression was that it has been a long time since it was so peaceful,” she wrote.
But not all people were happy.
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung feared the camp would become more passive – or even be dismantled. “Pan-democrats should be more united than ever and pay more effort in finding common ground,” he said.