Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied any correlation between the appointment of pro-Beijing figure Choi Yuk-lin as the education deputy and an intention to push forward national education. She told reporters on Wednesday that there were no plan to reintroduce the proposal which sparked protests five years ago.

The government’s decision on Tuesday to appoint Choi has been slammed by pro-democracy lawmakers and parties, with education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen calling it an “appointment at all costs.” Some 17,000 Hongkongers signed a petition opposing her appointment, and pro-democracy party Demosisto also expressed discontent with the appointment process.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Apple Daily screenshot.

Lam said she had noted concerns: “[B]ut it’s difficult for me to understand why the appointment of a deputy can be inflated as me waging war with the education sector, or that I’ve single-handedly destroyed the mutual trust and cooperation we’ve established with the sector over the past couple of months.”

“I want to emphasise again that this administration will improve the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, striving for openness, inclusiveness and valuing talent over political stances – these will be the principles behind my policies.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Choi said that policy priorities were not to be decided by the deputy, and that her job was to work with the head of the bureau. She also said Lam already made it clear that there was no need to review the national education policy at the moment.

Choi Yuk-lin. File photo: Apple Daily.

Choi denied having any political inclination, saying she was a Christian and faithful to her passion towards education. She acknowledged that Hong Kong was a diverse society and that there were different views towards her appointment. She said differences can be reconciled so long as they were not personal attacks against her.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said that Choi was his first choice for the job and stressed that she had 20 years of experience in front line education work and social service.

Yeung also said that Lam’s team involved individuals from a wide political spectrum, and Choi should be given time and space so as to demonstrate her working abilities and have the opportunity to continue serving the sector.

Editor’s note: Digital media outlets such as Hong Kong Free Press are currently barred from attending government press conferences.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.