Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she finds Chinese President Xi Jinping more and more charismatic and admirable.

She made her remarks in an interview with the Financial Times column At Home with the FT, in which she spoke to the newspaper at her official residence.

In the interview, Lam was asked which political leader she most admires. “You may say that it’s shoe-shining but I have to say I find President Xi more and more charismatic and admirable in the things that he is doing and saying,” she was quoted as saying.

xi jinping carrie lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Xi Jinping in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

Last Sunday, the National People’s Congress passed a proposal to scrap term limits for Chinese presidents and vice-presidents, giving Xi authorisation to rule indefinitely.

In the interview, Lam rejected the idea that Beijing was clamping down on Hong Kong. She said Beijing was defending its sovereignty just as Spain – supported by the EU – was in handling the issue of Calatonia’s independence calls.

Several pro-independence advocates were barred from running in elections in 2016 and this month. Some were barred even though they publicly rejected the notion of independence when submitting their nominations to run.

Agnes Chow, whose party supports self-determination for Hong Kong people, was one of the disqualified candidate. Self-determination has been deemed the equivalent of supporting independence by Beijing officials.

“If we respect the one country, then we preserve our own system,” Lam said.

hong kong independence
File photo: In-Media.

Lam was asked about Hong Kong’s housing crisis. She said that she understood the frustrations of young people who were unable to buy a flat in the skyrocketing market, and mentioned her scheme to help first-time home buyers.

But, in a reference to the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests, she added that some young people were being “steered towards a more radical position” because of a feeling of jealousy: “when other people have it, why can’t I?”

Lam herself does not own any properties in Hong Kong, as she has been living in housing provided by the government since she joined the civil service after graduating from university. Her husband Lam Siu-por, a retired mathematics professor, owns a flat in the mainland city of Zhongshan.

During her election campaign, Lam was mocked for not knowing how to pass through an MTR ticket barrier and for not knowing where to buy toilet paper. She told the FT she was initially “upset and angry” about the ridicule, “but now I really care less and less”.

Work and relaxation

Commenting on living in Government House, Lam said the best thing was that “you can combine work and private life.”

Government House
Government House. Photo: GovHK.

“Now I come to feel that working is relaxing to me,” she was quoted as saying. “You cannot appreciate the sense of satisfaction that I get from my job.”

“I have a study room up there which replicates everything in my office,” she added, referring to her living quarters.

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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.