Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that a good atmosphere is needed to restart work on political reform and the legislation of the national security law, and that she would do her best to create favourable conditions.

Standing against a sky-blue backdrop with the slogan “We Connect for Hope and Happiness,” Lam was grilled by reporters at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon which followed the delivery of her first policy address.

Defending herself against accusations that the agenda deliberately avoided thorny political issues, Lam said that it reflected what she heard from the community and various sectors over the past three months.

“It is not my personal choice of making a political or non-political policy address. It is what the community has told us, [the issues] that they want this government to address as a matter of priority,” she said, adding that the priority is socio-economic issues.

Lam also said that she emphasised a new style of governance in her policy address, which includes increasing the transparency of administrative branches and improving relationships between the executive and the legislature.

“This is so that society, as well as lawmakers, can return to a rational, practical [manner] that focuses on the incident rather than on whether they like a particular person when discussing the government’s policies,” Lam added.

‘A good atmosphere’

Lam was then asked about the legislation of Article 23, the controversial national security law, and political reform. The first, she said, was a constitutional responsibility that guarantees national security and the safety of Hongkongers. “Especially in these two years, [the trend of] global terrorism is very worrying.”

Lam said she also hopes, having campaigned in an election herself, that there is universal suffrage and that she is authorised to govern by the people of Hong Kong. She said both have not been successful even after many efforts, and only under a “suitable atmosphere” would it be possible to work on these controversial topics again.

“Otherwise, the whole of Hong Kong would be dragged down again and nothing else would get done.”

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“As for when there will be a good atmosphere, there is no objective indicator,” Lam said. She said that she has worked hard for Hong Kong over the past three months and was very respectful towards the Legislative Council. “But how did they treat me?” she asked, referring to pro-democracy lawmakers’ protests against her when she entered the chamber Wednesday morning.

“That is what I meant by not having a good atmosphere,” Lam said. She added that work on the topics may be able to commence once she is able to enter the chamber peacefully and has the basic respect of the whole Legislative Council. She said that she would do her best to create such favourable conditions.

Mending social rifts

Asked why there was no mention of mending social rifts — which she has long vowed to do — in her policy address, Lam said, “Mending social rifts is not done with words. It’s not as if I write a hundred more words on mending social rifts, then they will be mended, and the atmosphere in society will improve.”

“It’s [done] through concrete actions and work, and concrete actions are distributed throughout each chapter of the policy address.”

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

She added that she will work on amending the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance so that certain provisions will apply to the chief executive.

The provisions include section 3 on soliciting and accepting an advantage, and section 8 on bribery of public servants by persons having dealings with public bodies, both of which currently do not apply to the chief executive.

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.