Critics have questioned chief executive candidate Carrie Lam’s promise to resign if she fails to win the support of the public.

“If the mainstream opinion of Hong Kong people renders me unsuitable to serve as chief executive, I will resign,” Lam said.

Frontline Tech Workers, a pro-democracy group with members in the election committee, said Lam herself defined what “mainstream opinion” was in July 2014.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Facebook/TVB screenshot.

As chief secretary, Lam was then responsible for a public consultation over democratic reform proposals.

When a report was issued after the consultation, she said 124,000 opinions were received, and society generally agreed that the chief executive must love the country and love Hong Kong.

“Mainstream opinion means there is a tendency [in a certain direction], that generally over half of the population agrees with this opinion,” she said at the time. “But we should not ignore some non-mainstream or minority opinions at this moment.”

Referring to her previous statement, Frontline Tech Workers said: “It means if more than half of the population is against her being the chief executive, she will resign. Remember to hold her to her word everyday.”

But Lam’s conclusions were questioned during the public consultation. Critics said that many of the opinions received were template letters from social groups with similar or even identical formats, meaning that mainstream opinion can easily be manipulated.

John Tsang at the chief executive election TV debate. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Popularity polls

All but one of four recent public opinion polls showed that Lam’s major rival John Tsang is the most popular candidate in Hong Kong’s leadership race.

In polls conducted by the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University and Lingnan University, Lam’s popularity rates were between 30 and 34.3 per cent.

The Lingnan poll also asked respondents which candidate they disliked the most. Lam came first with 44.6 per cent of respondents opposing her.

The poll showing favourable results for Lam was conducted by the Hong Kong Research Association. Lam received 40 per cent support from over 1,300 respondents as Tsang received 37 per cent. Local media previously reported that the association may have links to pro-Beijing figures.

When Tsang asked Lam if she would consider withdrawing her candidacy owing to lower ratings in Tuesday’s debate, Lam cited the association’s poll and claimed that she was more popular than Tsang. “You really trust that one?” asked Tsang.

Will of governance

Meanwhile, lawmaker Regina Ip, who did not receive enough nominations to become a candidate, said Lam’s statement was a “bad move” which leaves her open to attack.

“She created issues for people to attack… it reflected that she did not have a strong will to govern,” Ip said on a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday.

She said any move by the government will create controversy but that it should face the difficulties rather than surrender.

Regina Ip. File

Ip added that she believed Lam may have wanted to show that she would not be reluctant to relinquish her office, but the statement showed that she was not determined enough to govern.

Political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung expressed similar doubts on a Now TV programme after the debate.

He said the statement may have an impact in the minds of central government figures as well.

“Did she consider that, on the matter of resignation, Beijing has a role as well – it cannot allow resignation at will,” he said.

Choy said it was a “rather big mistake” and that if Lam is elected, the statement will be mentioned whenever her popularity sees a big dip or if there is a large scale march.

Kris Cheng

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.