Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam has blamed the inconsistent design of MTR gates for a publicity blunder which marred her leadership campaign.

Lam became a target of ridicule in January after news footage showed that she did not know how to use MTR turnstiles. She was filmed putting her Octopus travel card over a turnstile at Admiralty station, but she then remained still as she did not realise she could proceed. An assistant nudged her and said: “It is okay, you can go ahead.”

An assistant gave Carrie Lam a reminder in front of an MTR turnstile. Photo: TVB screenshot.

On Sunday, Lam explained that the gaffe was a result of the railway company’s inconsistent gate design.

“It is not a problem with Octopus cards, but a problem with the MTR. Actually, I should have mentioned this to [MTR Corporation chairman] Ma Si-hang yesterday,” she said on an RTHK programme.

She said she was confused because the barrier she used in a station along the new South Island Line automatically sprang open.

“I was coming from the South Island Line – also mind you, I was surrounded by reporters and citizens – and I used my Octopus card while thinking of the South Island Line’s automatic barrier system. That’s why I forgot I needed to push the turnstile,” Lam said.

“So it is not that I don’t know how to use the Octopus card. It is because your mind is influenced by your past experience when you deal with different facility designs.”

MTR turnstiles in Chai Wan station. File Photo: Wikicommons.

‘Down to earth’

During the radio show, Lam said her daily life is very down-to-earth: “I often drive on my own to go shopping and go to church.”

She added that she wanted to buy an apartment last year, but gave up on the idea because – “as a wage earner” – she could not afford flats in urban areas. She said she had considered options in eastern New Territories such as Shatin and Tai Po.

Lam is currently residing at a luxury serviced apartment in Wan Chai, after moving out of her government house she lived in as chief secretary. She said she and her husband will likely move into Government House in late-August.

The incoming leader showed surprise when the radio host suggested she may serve a second term. “What? I prefer not,” Lam said.


A public opinion poll conducted earlier this month by the University of Hong Kong found that Lam’s popularity has improved, enjoying a positive net approval rating. The same poll conducted immediately after the leadership election found a negative approval rating for the chief executive-elect.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Carrie Lam.

Lam said Sunday that public opinion is easily swayed by a single event: “I hope the public will judge me based on my long-term performance. Let’s wait and see how Hong Kong will develop under my leadership.”

Lam was also asked how she would defend the One Country, Two Systems policy, amid growing concerns that the policy may be threatened by China’s apparent encroachment.

In response, Lam said: “There is no need to worry about that. Both the central and the Hong Kong SAR governments share the same goal of defending the One Country, Two Systems policy. They both want to see success and prosperity in Hong Kong.”

She said she has a “simple” vision for Hong Kong under her leadership: “I hope everyone will become hopeful and happy.”

Lam will assume office on July 1, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Ellie Ng

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