Chief executive candidate Carrie Lam has revealed that she failed to procure toilet paper after moving into a new serviced apartment, attracting ridicule for her lack of common sense.

The former chief secretary said on Sunday: “I moved out of the chief secretary’s residence yesterday and have moved into an serviced apartment… But I ended up not being able to move in because I realised at midnight that I didn’t have toilet paper rolls. So I went to a convenience store hoping to buy one, but it turns out that convenience stores don’t sell toilet paper rolls.”

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

She said she was forced to take a taxi from the Convention Plaza Apartments in Wan Chai back to her former residence at the Peak in the early hours of Sunday.

“I have gone through many changes in life over the last few days. So I need to continue to learn and adapt to a new environment,” Lam said. She then left without answering reporters’ questions about criticism that she is “out of touch with reality.”

Lam’s remarks became the target of ridicule online. An online commenter said: “Are you serious? You were a government official for 36 years and you don’t even have common sense.” Another said: “She said she wants to get used to living as a commoner but she’s staying at a luxury serviced apartment – I don’t get the logic.”

Convention Plaza Apartments
Convention Plaza Apartments, a luxury residence. Photo: Google Street View.

Online commenters also suggested a number of solutions: Lam could buy tissues at the convenience store instead or ask the concierge of her residence for help; she could go to a 24-hour supermarket in Causeway Bay near her new residence; or she could order food at a 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant and receive free paper napkins instead of spending money on taxis.

Out of touch

Lam’s opponent Regina Ip said she hoped that Lam would soon get used to her new post.

Ip, who served as the city’s security chief between 1998 and 2003, said: “I have been a ‘commoner’ for 13 years… I go to cha chaan teng [local restaurants] to buy coffee and lunch boxes by myself every day, and I’m on good terms with many shopkeepers. As democratically elected lawmakers, we cannot afford to be out of touch.”

regina ip
Regina Ip. File Photo: HKFP.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing was asked on Monday to respond to the incident. He declined to comment on the conduct of specific chief executive candidates, but emphasised the importance of low-carbon living and urged the public to conserve energy.

MTR incident

Lam was also criticised on Friday for her lack of knowledge of the MTR system after news footage showed that she did not know how to use the turnstile. During a visit to Ap Lei Chau, Lam tried to pass through a turnstile but did not realise she could proceed after putting her octopus card over it. An assistant told her: “It’s ok, you can pass” and gave her a slight push.

She also got the station wrong. At Lei Tung station, she mistook an MTR advertisement of Wong Chuk Hang for the station’s name and told a passenger: “New station, Wong Chuk Hang.” The passenger corrected her on camera.

carrie lam mtr
Photo: TVB screenshots.

Lam previously said that she had no plans to open a Facebook account – unlike other candidates – due to the “technical difficulty” of learning how to run an account in a short period of time.

She said she would look into the issue if she was elected. “I don’t know if you remember, I was the first official to open a blog in 2002. It was even made into a book later. So I am very willing to directly communicate with people,” she said.

Lam, who said she came from a low-income family, joined the government in 1980. She served in many senior positions, including Director of Social Welfare, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, and Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands.

Besides Lam and Ip, other chief executive candidates are retired judge Woo Kwok-hing and former finance secretary John Tsang.

SMALL hong kong free press hkfp logo

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.