Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam draws friendly fire after making personal donation to opposition party

Chief executive gives HK$30,000 to Democratic Party, saying she has focused on mending ties with the legislature

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 9:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 11:04pm

Hong Kong’s leader faced a backlash from her own political allies on Wednesday for making a personal donation to the city’s biggest opposition party, as four lawmakers were sworn in without the oath-taking drama that got their predecessors disqualified.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor received bouquets and brickbats for her unexpected donation of HK$30,000 (US$3,800) out of her own pocket to the Democratic Party during its 23rd anniversary dinner on Tuesday night, which she publicised as “reconciliation” with her political opponents.

Some pro-establishment politicians warned it would open the floodgates to different parties seeking donations from Lam. Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee suggested it gave the impression the chief executive was “buying goodwill”.

Lam is set to meet lawmakers from across the political spectrum to discuss how to reshuffle the agenda of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee and its two subcommittees to move along funding applications.

Ip, a veteran lawmaker who chairs the pro-establishment New People’s Party, warned that Lam had made a dangerous move.

“It gives others a bad impression that you are buying people’s goodwill so they will blame you less in future,” she said. “I think it is not good for the Democratic Party either.”

Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan cautioned that other parties would look for similar endorsements from Lam from now on.

The Democratic Party said it would not reject Lam’s donation, despite being criticised by some of its allies for accepting money from an “authoritarian regime”.

Lam should delegate more and stick around for two terms, aide urges

At the same time, party leader Wu Chi-wai advised the government to seek reconciliation with society at large rather than a specific party.

He also hit out at Lam for dismissing the Democrats’ call for a public consultation on a contentious bill designed to curb abuse of the national anthem.

Lam’s olive branch to the opposition came at a sensitive time. Just last week, Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, raised eyebrows by warning that Hongkongers who use slogans calling for an end to “one-party dictatorship” in mainland China might risk being barred from elections.

On a more positive note, the four winners of the recent Legco by-election – Au Nok-hin, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Vincent Cheng Wing-shun and Tony Tse Wai-chuen – were sworn in on Wednesday without a fuss. That stood in stark contrast to the oath-taking antics of six opposition legislators in 2016, for which they were eventually disqualified.

After the swearing-in, Lam said she had focused on mending strained relations between the legislature and the administration since taking over as head of government last July.

“Some of them do not appreciate it, while others think I have done too much,” she said. “I think [the two branches] should respect each other and cooperate as much as they can,” she said.

While no one made any alterations to their oaths this time around, Ip and party colleague Eunice Yung Hoi-yan stole the limelight by chanting slogans ahead of pan-democrat Au’s turn.

“Shame on burning the Basic Law!” they chanted, referring to an incident in 2016 when Au burned a copy of the city’s mini-constitution.

Ip’s party candidate, Judy Chan Ka-pui, lost the Hong Kong Island race to Au in the March 11 poll.

Au said he took the oath on Wednesday with mixed feelings, as his election was triggered by the disqualification saga.

The newly elected lawmaker interpreted Tam’s warning about challenging China’s one-party rule as an attempt to “test the water” and restrict the political rights enjoyed by Hongkongers.