Carrie Lam rejects 'puppet' label in BBC interview

Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect, speaks at a press conference to announce her newly appointed cabinet, at Hong Kong's Central government offices, Hong Kong, China, on June 21, 2017.
Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect, speaks at a press conference to announce her newly appointed cabinet, at Hong Kong's Central government offices, Hong Kong, China, on June 21, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG • Mrs Carrie Lam, the incoming chief executive of Hong Kong, has rejected the label that she is a "puppet" of Beijing in an interview with the BBC.

"I know perception is important, but to say that I am just a puppet, that I won this election because of pro-Beijing forces, is a failure to acknowledge what I have done in Hong Kong over the last 36 years for the people of Hong Kong," she said in the interview that aired yesterday.

She spent 36 years in the city's civil service before stepping down from the chief secretary post to run in the March leadership race.

Mrs Lam was replying to a question from the BBC's China editor Carrie Gracie on whether she can claim to represent all the people of Hong Kong when she won 777 votes from the 1,194-member election committee tasked to pick the city's new leader.

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Mrs Lam said that she did not think "it's a question of a number".

"The question is about legitimacy. And as you all know, the election committee by itself is formed from a much larger electorate representing broadly all the sectors in society in Hong Kong," she told the BBC.

Ms Gracie wrote on the BBC website that Mrs Lam was "relentlessly serious" during the interview.

SERVICE RECORD

I know perception is important... but to say that I am just a puppet, that I won this election because of pro-Beijing forces, is a failure to acknowledge what I have done in Hong Kong over the last 36 years for the people of Hong Kong.

MRS CARRIE LAM, on the importance of the services she rendered to Hong Kong.

"To be fair to Mrs Lam, at least she has exposed herself to those questions, and even before taking office.

"Her predecessor C. Y. Leung (Mr Leung Chun Ying) granted no BBC interview during five years in the post," she wrote.

There have been growing fears among Hong Kongers that China is increasingly meddling in the city's affairs.

The disappearance of five booksellers in late 2015 had stoked fears that Chinese agents were operating in the city.

Mrs Lam said her job is to be the bridge between Hong Kong and Beijing.

"If there are worries that there has been undue interference into Hong Kong affairs which should come under a high degree of autonomy, then the chief executive has to reflect those sentiments and speak up on behalf of people," she told the BBC.

In an interview with China's official media this week, Mrs Lam said that calls for separating Hong Kong from China have no mainstream support.

"I believe the absolute majority of Hong Kongers have never felt that Hong Kong independence is a viable option," she told the official Xinhua news agency and China Central Television.

She also said her administration would explain to the public the harm that separatism could do to the stability and prosperity of the city, especially the impact on children and teenagers, reported South China Morning Post.

She proposed stepping up national education to nurture a sense of "I am Chinese" identity among youth from as early as kindergarten, and making Chinese history a compulsory subject at secondary school.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Carrie Lam rejects 'puppet' label in BBC interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe