Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam has called her administration the “most ideal team,” dismissing criticism that the appointed officials were not her first choices.

Lam admitted that there were many familiar faces in the new administration, but they all support her “new style of governance” – her idea that the government should take a more active role.

Of the 21 officials, only one was recruited from outside the current administration – Democratic Party co-founder and former lawmaker Law Chi-kwong, who will serve as secretary for labour and welfare.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam’s administration.

Asked repeatedly if her first choices for principal officials declined her invitations, or were rejected by Beijing, Lam said she would not reveal or comment on the details of the process.

“They have the heart, the ability, and the responsibility,” she said. “This is my most ideal team.”

“I think by design, the political accountability system does not necessarily mean that in the change of term we need to find new blood – if you define new blood as unfamiliar faces or people who have never joined the government.”

She added that there would be more young faces among undersecretaries, political assistants and the revamped Central Policy Unit.

Lam also said she did not notice comments from democrats, who said her team was “a second-rate team.”

“It seems people said there was no [positive] surprise – which means there was no shock, either. So this should be a stable and pragmatic team,” she said.

Secretary for Justice Mr Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, SC.
Secretary for Justice Mr Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, SC.

It was rumoured that Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, who will keep his post, would leave after handling the joint checkpoint agreement with the mainland at the Express Rail Link terminus. There were also concerns over Yuen’s health as he had been hospitalised several times in recent years.

Lam said the length of term for individual officials does not vary, and all officials are appointed for five years.

“Changes in personnel have happened in the past – if in the next five years some changes are needed because of personal reasons, or unforeseeable reasons, we should accept the reality,” she said.

Responding to questions, Yuen said the duration of his term was not the most important thing, but rather the question of whether he could carry out his duties. He said he has to see the doctor and take medicine sometimes like everyone else, but it does not affect his ability.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam’s administration.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan, who will also retain his post, said the three principles he mentioned in his annual budget earlier this year matched Lam’s election manifesto.

They include developing the economy to improve livelihood, investing in the future, and building a fairer society.

He said he did not know the details of the process of forming the cabinet when asked about rumours that he kept his job due to support from the China Liaison Office.

civic square
Student-led protests at the Civic Square in 2012 against the national education curriculum. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Controversial policies

Meanwhile, Lam said that, as Chinese people, citizens should care about the country’s development, when asked if she would reintroduce the controversial national education curriculum in schools.

“I hope they will be a new generation with a sense of national identity, love for Hong Kong and international perspectives,” she said.

She said it was the government’s constitutional duty to enact the national security law stipulated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, what asked if she would legislate it during her term.

“You can see the many terrorist incidents in the world – it can protect the country’s safety, and the safety of seven million Hong Kong people,” she said.

“But there have been huge controversies in the past when enacting the law – my view is that we have to create beneficial conditions before handling this controversial issue.

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.