Carrie Lam

In a first, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam donates money to city’s biggest pro-democracy party

Carrie Lam claims ‘major reconciliation’, in contrast to predecessor Leung Chun-ying, who urged ministers to boycott annual dinner during his term

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 3:28pm

In what is being hailed as an olive branch, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor became the first chief executive to make a donation to the city’s biggest pro-democracy party.

Lam, who attended the Democratic Party’s 23rd anniversary dinner in Kowloon Bay on Tuesday night, was among others who sponsored former Democrat lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming as he sang a Cantonese song. She donated HK$30,000 (US$3,820) out of her own pocket; the performance raised HK$320,000 in total.

Before this, no chief executive had ever made a donation to the party, its leaders claimed.

Lam subsequently uploaded three photos from the event to her Instagram account, with the hashtag “major reconciliation”.

Party chairman and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said: “It is our view that the government should mend ties with different parties. We are grateful for Lam’s donation and hope people from all walks of life would be willing to support us in defending the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the core values of Hong Kong.”

One country, two systems is the model under which Beijing governs Hong Kong.

But Wu stressed that if the government were indeed intent on mending relations, its sincerity should be reflected in how it handled controversial bills.

The party’s dinners in 2015 and 2016 drew significant attention when sources suggested the administration of then chief executive Leung Chun-ying had told ministers and other political appointees to boycott the events. Leung himself was not invited.

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Relations between the party and Leung turned frosty during his administration as the party had called on him to step down from office. From 2013 to 2016, it invited all officials except three, including Leung.

In 2016, former constitutional minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen – now a delegate to the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature – was the only official from Leung’s cabinet to attend the dinner.

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In marked contrast, Lam, who returned from Beijing earlier on Tuesday, not only attended the reception but also stayed for part of the dinner. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and other ministers were also present.

In his remarks at the event, Wu asserted that Beijing needed to understand that Hong Kong’s success hinged on defending ‘two systems’ and the city’s rule of law tradition. He avoided directly criticising Lam, and said core values were vital to luring talent to the city, which in turn could facilitate the chief executive’s vision for the Pearl River Delta and the country’s trade-focused “Belt and Road Initiative”.

The party raised HK$5 million from the dinner, down from HK$7.6 million last year.