Chief executive candidate Carrie Lam has been criticised for being “patronising” after she called a prominent student activist “little girl” and told her to be less radical.

Lam was greeted by a group of protesters on Sunday after she attended an election debate with rival Woo Kwok-hing. Labour rights groups and pro-democracy parties – including Demosisto, the League of Social Democrats and People Power – waited for Lam outside the venue.

Agnes Chow (second right) and other protesters. Photo: Demosisto, via Facebook.

Student activist Agnes Chow, 20, of Demosisto confronted Lam at one of the exits. When asked to promise not to use a judicial review challenge to disqualify democratically elected lawmakers from the legislature, Lam said: “Don’t be so radical. Your mother is very worried about you.”

As Chow pressed on, Lam said: “Chief executives are not above the law. They also abide by the law, little girl.” She refused to answer Chow’s question directly, saying that she would not comment on ongoing court cases.

“If you act peacefully, I can speak with you anywhere,” Lam added.

Chow later criticised Lam on social media: “All I want is for lawmakers who are elected by Hongkongers to stay in the legislature. This can be said to be the foundation of a democratic system.”

“Lam said I am radical and refused to promise not to disqualify lawmakers. This shows she has no idea what democracy is, and only hides inside the small circle election controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Agnes Chow. File Photo: Agnes Chow, via Facebook.

An online commenter criticised Lam: “She thinks other people are kids who don’t know anything. This kind of attitude prevents her from understanding and communicating with the public.” Another wrote: “Her tone is patronising, and her mentality reflects that of the Communist Party.”

Another commenter advised Chow: “You should tell her that you are not a little girl but an adult and representative of Demosisto, so please take people’s questions seriously.”

Woo Kwok-hing

Demosisto’s members also confronted Woo with the same question on the disqualification of lawmakers by means of judicial review.

Woo Kwok-hing (L) spoke to Demosisto protesters. Photo: Demosisto, via Facebook.

Woo, a former judge of the High Court, said he would not comment on ongoing court cases. When asked how he would handle future cases, Woo said each dispute must be judged on a case-by-case basis.

“I am not here today to give you a law lecture,” he said. In response, Chow said: “This is clearly not a legal issue but a political one.”

Woo reiterated his position that any judicial review application would require a sufficient legal basis, but he did not elaborate on the point.

See also: Ex-lawmaker Ronny Tong accused of favouring Carrie Lam in chief exec. election debate

A third candidate, ex-finance chief John Tsang, did not attend the debate.

The small-circle chief executive election is scheduled for March 26.

Ellie Ng

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