Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect Carrie Lam, voted in by a small-circle committee on Sunday, has pledged to work with the public to begin a new chapter for the city. She also said will make “courtesy calls” to China’s governmental organs in Hong Kong as part of protocol.

“Anyone with a sincere wish to serve, the ability and the commitment regardless of political affiliations, I shall invite to join my team,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Only in this way will we achieve real consensus and gain the widest support from the society.”

Lam was chosen by 777 eligible electors to become the city’s next leader.

Carrie Lam
Photo: HKFP.

The former chief secretary said that she would tour local districts, as well as visit the incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying, the secretary of justice, the legislature and the three Chinese government offices in Hong Kong as part of protocol.

The three offices include: the Central Liaison Office, the city’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, and the local headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army.

In 2012, Leung made a similar courtesy call to the Central Liaison Office immediately after his electoral victory. Critics claimed it was a way of “giving thanks” to Beijing following his successful campaign.

Likewise, over the past two months, numerous political figures have claimed that Beijing has actively supported Lam in her bid for Hong Kong’s top office.

Not ‘thanking’

However, Lam said that these calls did not constitute “thanking” Beijing for its support. She added that her first priority was to visit different local areas in Hong Kong in order to thank the public.

“I owe my position not only to the 1,194 Election Committee members,” she said. “I owe it to the people of Hong Kong.”

china liaison office emblem flag
The Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Photo: HKFP.

On Sunday, Lam emerged victorious after receiving 777 votes from the 1,194-strong Election Committee – the city’s electoral college, whose members comprise only 0.03 per cent of the registered voting population.

Lam added that she was trusted by the Chinese government because of her 36-year civil servant career, and her experience in handling political reform and work related to the mainland

She said that the perceived influence of Beijing in her electoral victory were simply “rumours,” from which society needed to move on.

Safeguarding core values

Questioned on public fears over Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy in the face of Beijing’s perceived intervention, Lam said that she would uphold and safeguard the city’s core values: “The rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, a clean government, and so on.”

themis rule of law Old Supreme Court
File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“[Hong Kong’s core values] are actually within One Country, Two Systems and enshrined under the Basic Law,” she said. “So in so far as the central authorities are concerned, there is actually no difference in our views to safeguard these core values.”

She added that she would be brave enough to speak up for Hongkongers, as long as something is for the good of Hong Kong. “I think everyone here knows about my courage,” she said.

A new administration

Lam faces low popularity ratings even before the beginning of her tenure. Her election rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, recently warned in a televised debate that the social divisions and polarisation under the Leung administration would continue under Lam.

On Sunday, she told reporters that her primary task as chief executive would be to unite society. She promised to firstly work on less-politicised problems such as housing and education, which would create a favourable environment to tackle tougher issues such as political reform.

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“This will not be achieved in one day,” she said. “But give me time.”

Lam added that she would invite people across the political spectrum to join her governing administration. She hinted that she had candidates in mind, but would not disclose their identities at present.

”In Full: Click to view Lam’s acceptance speech, in English“

Here, with humility, I stand as Chief Executive-Elect of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and ready to begin a new chapter in our journey together.

I want to thank Mr John Tsang, Mr Woo Kwok-hing, and Mrs Regina Ip. They all ran good campaigns which taught me a lot. I hope they would continue to serve the Hong Kong people with me, in whatever ways they feel appropriate.

I need to thank the members of the Election Committee. Regardless of whom they have voted for, I thank them for caring about Hong Kong and for their active participation in this election.

The media, especially frontline reporters, deserve appreciation. Thank you for helping the people monitor the campaign and me. It has been two months of very hard work.

Colleagues in my campaign office have worked hard too. I am grateful for their tireless contribution night and day.

Most of all, I thank the people from different sectors and all the citizens who have shared their thoughts and views in their ways. At the start of this campaign, I felt rather confident that years of public service meant I should know things reasonably well. In the process, however, I heard so much more from people’s hearts, and learnt and experienced many new things as well as different angles to things. I see my shortcomings and understand that I must put in more efforts.

I also understand that being the Chief Executive will be very different from all the other positions in which I have previously served. In those positions, my role tended towards implementing solutions to problems. As Chief Executive, it will be my responsibility to identify the crux of the matter and address the problems with a more macro approach.

Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustration. My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration – and to unite our society to move forward.

To me, unity must be built step by step on solid ground. It is through real work and actual results that I will respond to those who support me, and garner the recognition of those yet to support me. Deeds speak louder than words.

I also want to stress: in forming my governance team, my principle is to attract talent widely and on merit. Anyone with a sincere wish to serve, the ability, and the commitment, regardless of political affiliation, I shall invite to join my team.

I will tell every member of my team to listen to and work with the people in reaching collective decisions and taking action. Only in this way will we achieve real consensus and gain the widest support from society.

The work of uniting our society to move forward begins now. To take as an example the proposal in my Manifesto to increase the recurrent expenditure for education by HK$5 billion, I will reach out to the various stakeholders and legislators very soon. Regardless of political stance, for the sake of our next generation, we should sit down to discuss and decide how to apply these new resources. I am confident that we can put aside any differences and achieve a win-win situation.

I have proposed to apply financial and tax measures in a strategic way to facilitate economic development. This includes the introduction of a two-tier profits tax system, and tax deductions to incentivize research and development. Hong Kong needs new thinking. I invite employers and employees in all sectors, as well as experts, and academics to come up with ideas and help devise new plans.

As we all know, housing is an issue that has been problematic for Hong Kong for some time. I have pledged to help Hong Kong people attain home ownership and to improve living conditions. To do this, we need more usable land; the key is to reach a consensus on how to increase supply. I will bring together professionals from planning, engineering, architecture, and environmental protection to form the task force which I have mentioned in my Manifesto, to get a start on the process of public engagement.

Hong Kong is a diverse society, with different views coexisting. Values such as inclusiveness, freedoms of the press and of speech, respect for human rights, and systems which have taken generations to establish, such as the independent judiciary, rule of law, and clean government, are matters that we Hong Kong people find precious and are proud of. As your Chief Executive, I shall do my utmost to uphold “one country, two systems” and to guard our core values.

These values are the reason we love Hong Kong our home so much. They also make our society lively and creative. I welcome and indeed encourage the spectrum of voices. Through substantive collaboration, we will show that different views can respect each other, work together, and heal the divisiveness.

This will not be easy; the future Administration will have other equally if not even more difficult tasks. We will prioritize; we will also be smart about leveraging the forces of the government, civil society, as well as the public at large.

In particular, I wish to tap the forces of our young people. The young has the most energy. More importantly, they often are at the forefront of society, pulling and pushing us as a whole to make progress. In this campaign, I have felt deeply our younger people’s strong desires and their passion for Hong Kong. Whether in my district visits, meetings, encounter with protests, or receiving phone calls, emails or Facebook messages, the most forthright are often younger. In fact, large parts of my Manifesto were inspired by young people.

I myself started paying attention to social issues and deciding to seek a more just and benevolent society when I was in university. Now, some years later, I am still passionate about serving the people.

Looking ahead to the next five years, there will be plenty of work, and the problems will not be easy to overcome. My heart remains the same, only more humble. I look forward to our road ahead. Through caring, listening, and taking action, we will build an even better Hong Kong.

Her rival Tsang received 365 votes in Sunday’s small-circle election. A third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, received 21 votes.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.