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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam defends donation to pro-democracy party but apologises for ‘inconvenience’ caused

Chief executive gave the opposition Democratic Party HK$30,000 at a recent fundraiser but has taken stick from all sides of the political divide over the move

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 10:41pm

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has defended her personal donation to the city’s biggest opposition party but added she was “sorry for causing inconvenience or discomfort” for parties on both sides of the political divide.

Lam also said she would be “more restrained” if her critics believed she should be more “cautious”.

The chief executive received bouquets and brickbats for her unexpected donation of HK$30,000 (US$3,800) to the Democratic Party during its 23rd anniversary dinner last week.

The donation was publicised on Lam’s official Instagram account, with three photos of the occasion and the hashtag “major reconciliation”.

Lam explained that during the dinner she was among those who sponsored former Democrat lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming’s performance of a Cantonese song, saying he was a long-time friend. She donated HK$30,000 because the party had raised HK$270,000 and Li was asking if anyone wanted to top it up to HK$300,000, Lam said.

Hong Kong pro-democracy party defends accepting cash from city leader

The donation backfired for both Lam and the Democrats. Radical pro-democracy groups criticised the party for mingling too closely with the government, while some pro-establishment politicians, including Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, warned it would open the floodgates to different groups seeking donations from Lam.

In a media briefing before the Executive Council’s weekly meeting on Tuesday, Lam said the donation was only meant to be a “personal and friendly gesture”.

“That’s all. I can only say sorry for causing inconvenience for the Democrats, and the pro-establishment political parties’ discomfort,” she said.

Lam added it was not she but her colleague in charge of the Instagram account who “made a personal decision” to add the hashtag “major reconciliation”.

“The colleague apologised to me for making the personal decision. I find the [hashtag] very inappropriate because I don’t have any major enmity with political parties, and there’s no need for major reconciliation.”

Democrats’ banquet gives Hong Kong something to chew over

Lam said she would continue to value the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

“If society believes that the chief executive should be more cautious, instead of making too many personal gestures, I will be more restrained.”

The city leader added that in the past she received a letter of petition from patients suffering from rare diseases, although the group was led by opposition lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Labour Party.

“As chief executive, I am not pushed by a particular party in administering Hong Kong. I’d rather focus on issues than the [politicians behind them].”

The Democratic 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.

But Lam described attending the Democrats’ dinner as “normal”.

“Unless it is a pro-independence party, I will attend different political parties’ dinners as the chief executive,” she said.

Ip, chairwoman of the New People’s Party and Exco member, said she accepted Lam’s explanation after discussing the issue with officials from the leader’s office.

“I’m satisfied … and I accepted their explanations,” she said.

Another Exco member, Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: “The chief executive has listened to our opinions … I believe that she will make the right judgment at similar occasions in the future.”