Teresa Kwok, 15, South Island School
The city’s protests were triggered because Carrie Lam introduced an unpopular extradition bill. In doing this, she disregarded public opinion. It wasn’t her best move.
However, whether Carrie Lam is fit to be Hong Kong’s chief executive does not depend on a single political event, but her overall performance over the past few years.
Lam graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 1980 and worked in a number of the government agencies. In 2007, she was appointed as the Secretary for Development. In 2012, she became Chief Secretary for Administration. These facts show that she is well educated, and among the elite of her generation.
Lam also has lots of experience handling big political issues. She showed what she was made of during the Queen’s Pier conflict of 2007, when protesters tried to prevent the removal of the historic waterfront building to make way for land reclamation.
Lam persuaded the protesters gathered at Queen’s Pier to disperse, allowing the demolition work to begin. Surely, this shows that she has the ability to handle big political issues and solve problems calmly and efficiently.
Lam has also introduced some good policies that benefit Hongkongers. For example, monthly travel subsidies for commuters have helped to cut travel costs for many public transport users. She has also giving working women 14 weeks of maternity leave, and has increased the housing supply to tackle the problem of homelessness. This shows that she listens to what people say and she is trying to find solutions to the problems we face.
Yes, Lam triggered the current unrest, but even good leaders make mistakes. Lam’s performance over the past few years has been impressive, showing that she is fit to be Hong Kong’s chief executive.
Laila Joy Albuquerque, 18, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
It is hard to believe that Carrie Lam was once hailed as the leader who could heal Hong Kong’s social divide.
The excessive force used by police during Hong Kong’s ongoing protests reflects Lam’s indifference towards public safety and well-being. And while you could argue that the public should apologise for the havoc they have wreaked on the city, from burned MTR stations to smashed shop windows, the police should also be expected to apologise for the damage done to civilians, from bloody noses to gunshot wounds.
Yet Lam has always backed the police, saying they use the appropriate amount of force needed to handle protesters (ignoring for example, the firing 10,000 rounds of tear gas in a densely populated city, leading to diagnosis of skin conditions like chloracne from overexposure to the toxic chemicals). She fails as a chief executive when she fails to apologise for or even address acts of brutality committed upon her people.
She also shows irresponsible financial planning in a city known for its economic freedom. Under her leadership, Hong Kong has recorded its first fiscal deficit in 15 years due to public spending exceeding income. This is mainly to do with loss of sales and industry from political unrest, with everything from tourism, to local university rankings taking major hits.
While we may be able to understand why the need to bring a criminal to justice prompted Lam to propose the extradition bill in the first place, it’s hard to make sense of her course of action since then, or understand why she is powerless to meet the protesters’ five demands. Her lack of sensitivity when it comes to social issues, police brutality and misuse of Hong Kong’s economic reserves has contributed to the greater political unrest that shows no sign of backing down until Lam herself does.