Hong Kong’s second most powerful official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said that she will retire next year, eliminating speculation that she may run for chief executive. In an interview with Singtao Daily published on Thursday, Lam – who is 58 – said she will have worked for the government for 37 years come 2017. “It is time to retire. This is also my promise to my husband.”

Asked whether she will support Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s possible re-election bid, Lam said: “I will not talk about these things.”

Lam’s interview with Sing Tao. Photo: HKFP.

Lam’s interview came after both her and Leung’s popularity fell to new lows after the Chief Executive’s fourth policy address last week, according to a poll by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme. Lam said her popularity does not concern her as she will “slowly fade out” of the public limelight. She added that it would be “problematic” if she is too popular with the public because then they would not let her go.

Lam hailed the work of the current administration, especially in poverty relief. In the past three and a half years, the government’s social welfare spending has increased significantly from HK$42.8 billion to HK$59.7 billion, she said.

Leung’s popularity dropped after his Policy Address. Photo: HKFP.

Lam said she enjoys her work very much now but ruled out the possibility of another term. She also flatly denied rumours that she has her eyes set on a higher government position.

The chief secretary was criticised for supporting Leung’s policy address while most blasted him for focusing on China’s “One Belt, One Road” project instead of local issues. Last year, Lam also stirred controversy by defending officials who were under fire over the lead water scandal.

In another interview with pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao published on the same day, Lam criticised pan-democrat lawmakers for attacking officials and filibustering bills in the Legislative Council. She said the quality of LegCo debates are “deteriorating” because some legislators like to “shout slogans regardless of the facts.”

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.