Chief executive contender Carrie Lam has published her election manifesto, shortly before the nomination period is set to end on Wednesday. The launch event was delayed as pro-democracy figures staged protests.

Lam, often seen as Beijing’s favourite, will submit her nominations on Tuesday morning having amassed more than 400 endorsements. She hosted her manifesto launch at the MacPherson Stadium in Mong Kok on Monday – however, the public were not invited and the stadium was largely empty.

Around 20 protesters from the Demosisto party, the League of Social Democrats and lawmaker Lau Siu-lai entered the venue before the event began. am’s top media aide Tai Keen-man asked them to leave, but they refused. They said they wanted to “connect” with Carrie Lam – a play on Lam’s slogan “We Connect” – though a security guard attempted to take their microphones.

Carrie Lam protest
LSD’s Raphael Wong speaking to Executive Councillor Bernard Chan. Photo: LSD.

Later, Lam’s top adviser Executive Councillor Bernard Chan spoke to the protesters urging them to leave as it was an occasion for Lam to “connect with the Hong Kong public.” Some called Chan a traitor as he had reportedly joined rival John Tsang’s camp first.

hong kong protest
Photo: InMedia.

“If she wants to be the chief executive of Hong Kong people, why can’t Hong Kong people be here and listen?” Demosisto’s Derek Lam said. “What do you mean by We Connect? Do you just connect with the media and not us?”

The protesters refused to budge but said they would not make any noise during the event. They were then allowed to stay after several arguments, though the event was delayed for around 30 minutes.

Livelihoods, civil service, economy and youth

Lam previously spoke of three major campaign points: education, tax reform, and housing – but it was another fortnight before she issued her full election platform. She is the last of the four major contenders to do so.

The Monday event focused on four key areas: livelihood, civil service, the economy and Hong Kong youth. Reporters focused on Lam’s relatively small mentions of the political reform process and Article 23 of the Basic Law – the ill-fated national security law legislation.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Carrie Lam.

The former chief secretary said that democratic reforms must be based on the framework set by the central government in 2014 – which involved a heavy vetting of candidates by Beijing.

Lam was responsible for the failed political reform package in 2015 when she was chief secretary. She said the current split in Hong Kong society was very much related to political reform.

See also: Explainer: Why Hong Kong’s leadership race is neither free, fair, nor representative

“I want to create an atmosphere for political reform – without the right atmosphere and conditions, restarting political reform will only disappoint citizens who want Hong Kong to be united,” she said.

Lam said there is a constitutional duty to legislate the national security law in accordance with Article 23, but she also said the government should not force the legislation through if a suitable environment is lacking.

Early launch 

Lam previously said she would only issue her manifesto in early March, after the nomination period. She denied that the earlier publication was an effort to gain support from electors.

“My team and I have been working harder than we thought,” she said.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam (middle) promoting political reform in 2015. Photo: GovHK.

In her policy highlights, she said she would use stock dividends from the MTR Corporation to subsidise train fares. She proposed installing free wi-fi hotspots on all MTR trains.

She will also reform the Central Policy Unit to widen its functions in public participation and coordinating policies across different departments. In Lam’s plan, the unit will not participate in the appointment of personnel in statutory bodies and official committees.

One of the reforms will include hiring 20 to 30 young people to conduct policy research.

Lam’s manifesto also said that the chief secretary will oversee a new Youth Development Commission, which will invite young people to participate in public affairs.

She supported amending the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance in order that sections related to accepting advantages and the bribery of public servants will be applicable to the chief executive. She said she will actively follow up with the legislation of an archive law when a report from the Law Reform Commission is completed.

Small houses
Small houses. Photo: GovHK.

She did not mention a clear solution to the ever-rising demand for village houses by the indigenous people of the New Territories. Under the Small House Policy, male descendants of villages have the right to build three-storey houses, though land is scarce. She said there was a judicial review underway over the matter and people should wait for the result before any discussion.

She proposed the retirement age of civil servants who joined after 2000, who were without a pension scheme, can be extended to 65. The retirement age of those employed in the disciplined forces will be extended from 55 to 60.

Lam said industrial buildings could be renovated as co-working spaces with cheaper rents. She also suggested affordable flats for first-time home buyers.

She called for a special summit on tax reform if she is elected.

On education, she suggested abolishing the controversial TSA tests for primary three students.

Carrie Lam LSD protest
Raphael Wong of League of Social Democrats and lawmaker Lau Siu-lai questioning Carrie Lam. Photo: Facebook.

After the event, the group protested again as they chanted their demands for universal suffrage and standard working hours, among others.

When Lam approached them and handed them her manifesto, they demanded she comment on speeches made recently by police officers at a rally. The rally was held in support the seven police officers who were jailed for beating up a protester. Attendees were heard chanting “fuck your mother”.

Lam said in reply: “I hope you all can understand the reflection of emotion. But, at all times, people should respect each other.”

The manifesto was published on her official website, albeit only in Chinese.

The nomination period for the small-circle chief executive race runs until Wednesday. The main contenders include Lam, lawmaker Regina Ip, ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing and former finance chief John Tsang. The election takes place on March 26.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.