Chief executive candidate Carrie Lam came under fire from her former government colleagues over the weekend over her working style. Her office have said the allegations were “groundless fabrications.”

The attacks began last Friday, just two days before the final televised election debate before the small-circle elections. Apple Daily published an article from an anonymous top civil servant who claimed to have worked with her.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Carrie Lam.

The author wrote that Lam was indeed good at drafting documents and public speaking, but it was not rare that top civil servants possess such qualities. Lam, however, lacked a sense of team spirit in trusting people below her.

The author claimed that civil servants had tried to warn that certain issues, such as the Hong Kong Palace Museum, could attract legal challenges but she would not listen: “Procedures must be followed, but she thought people were blocking her [from her work.]”

Withholding information

The author accused Lam of being responsible for high property prices in the city, suggesting that she “did not believe in the urgency of land supply” when she was the development secretary under former chief executive Donald Tsang.

“Tsang kept on pushing her to provide a list of land supply, but she did not care – in fact, the Development Bureau has a list, but Lam did not give it to Tsang,” the author said. He added that, when Paul Chan Mo-po took over as the new secretary, the list was given to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying soon after.

Donald Tsang Carrie Lam
Donald Tsang (left) with Carrie Lam as the Secretary for Development. Photo: GovHK.

The author also claimed when Lam was working at the Treasury Branch, she proposed a cut of departmental resources by five per cent in three years – greater than the two per cent rate over the same period proposed by leadership rival John Tsang, which Lam has criticised.

“The bottom-line of administrative officers is that they do not tell lies – they may choose not to talk about things, or not to bring up the main issue, but Lam has crossed the line,” the author wrote.

“Leung Chun-ying may be full of himself, but I am afraid Carrie Lam is worse, since she knows how government works, and her attitude is worse than Leung’s.”

Lam’s office said in a short statement that the article’s accusations were unfounded.

Donald Tsang Lau Sai-leung
Donald Tsang’s ‘war room’: Lau Sai-leung (back row second from right). Photo: Facebook/Apple Daily.

‘Control freak’

But on Saturday, Lau Sai-leung, a former full-time consultant to the Central Policy Unit and a close aide to Donald Tsang, echoed the anonymous civil servant’s words on his Facebook page.

Lau said Lam urged her boss to give her more power, but Lam had shifted the blame for the problems created when she was in charge of land development as the Development Secretary.

“She just let her new boss Leung Chun-ying blame the last administration. Eva Cheng Yu-wah, the Secretary for Transport and Housing at the time, also broke off her relationship with Lam,” Lau said.

Lau also said Lam was controlling: “Any administrative officers who have different opinions would be scolded by Lam, because she thinks only she is right.”

Threat to resign

Finally, Lau said Lam would “go mad” when she was unable to accept that her boss had overruled her decision.

“Before her term ended [as Development Secretary], she was responsible for the issue of illegal structures in the New Territories. Chief secretary Henry Tang asked her to suspend the plan, as it involved too many controversies and it could not be completed – Lam threatened to resign,” he said.

Lau said the top civil servants he knew were all professional and responsible officials, and that – if Lam is elected – they may leave the government and “it won’t be good for Hong Kong.”

Elizabeth Tse Man-yee
Elizabeth Tse Man-yee.


Former lawmaker Emily Lau had previously also claimed that at least three permanent secretaries will leave the government should Lam be elected.

Last Friday, a Ming Pao political column cited sources as saying that resignations may include Elizabeth Tse Man-yee, the Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Treasury), and also her husband Thomas Chow Tat-ming, the Permanent Secretary for the Civil Service.

The column also claimed, citing sources, that Lam once criticised Tse at a meeting to the point that Tse broke down in tears.

Tse, however, dismissed the claims on Friday and said that she would stay in her position Chow also said on Monday that they will stay in their positions and their professionalism will not change after a change of administration.

Woo Kwok-hing is also a candidate in the small-circle elections set to take place in Wan Chai this Sunday.

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.