China’s top office for handling Hong Kong affairs has called on the incoming administration to enhance the city’s competitiveness on the international stage and tackle deep-rooted problems such as the housing crisis.
The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a press statement on Sunday, after Chief Executive-elect John Lee’s new cabinet was unveiled, outlining five areas to “take greater action” in.
The areas include “fully and accurately” implementing the “One Country, Two Systems” framework; making “practical breakthroughs” on the most “realistic” problems including housing and wealth inequality; promoting Hong Kong’s social development; boosting Hong Kong’s integration into the mainland’s development; and consolidating the city’s international competitiveness.
“The sixth-term government must… strive to write a new chapter in the development of Hong Kong, live up to the entrustment of General Secretary Xi Jinping, live up to the high expectations of the central government, and live up to the expectations of the general public of Hong Kong,” the office’s statement read.
Lee, who was elected unopposed to the city’s top post in a small-circle election last month, revealed his cabinet at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
The 21 appointments include Lo Chung-mau – a staunch supporter of China’s “zero-Covid” strategy – as the new head of the Health Bureau, and Choi Yuk-lin – who pushed for national education in 2012 – as the new education secretary.
Officials who will stay in their current positions include security chief Chris Tang, finance chief Paul Chan and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang.
It remains unclear whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong to swear in Lee to the top leadership post on July 1, a date that also marks the former British colony’s 25th anniversary of its return to China.
’10 days left’
Lee will take the reins from incumbent Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose term saw the 2019 protests and unrest, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
In a Monday interview on Metro Radio, Lam said she felt “very relaxed” and “very happy” in April when she announced that she would not be running in the chief executive race. She said she would retire from her career as a public servant.
“But now, with 10 days left, I’m starting to feel worried. Oh no, having spent 42 years [in the government] and being quite hardworking, how will I spend my time now?” she said.
Lam said there were “a lot of things she had put aside” due to her career, including sports, travelling and “personal development,” adding that she is also interested in Chinese history and culture.
The leader conceded that she did not have a good relationship with the public during her term. “You can imagine that those who participated in the social unrest in 2019 would definitely not be satisfied with the government. Those who are neutral would wonder why there was so much chaos in society,” Lam said.
Her popularity ratings dropped to record lows during the protests three years ago, when Hongkongers took to the streets to oppose a bill that would allow fugitives to be transferred to mainland China. The demonstrations soon ballooned into a general display of pro-democracy discontent towards the government.
Lam also said that, while Hongkongers focus on the 2019 protests and the Covid-19 epidemic when looking back on her term, she wished the public could recall other work that her administration carried out, including increasing maternity leave to 14 weeks and scrapping a controversial mechanism that stops employers from dipping into employees’ pension funds for severance payments.
“I hope that citizens remember that, over the past five years, our team has tackled a number of problems in society,” she said.
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