Carrie Lam vows to engage Hong Kong youth in dialogues

Mrs Lam, the leading candidate to be Hong Kong's next chief executive, facing off against pro-democracy protesters calling for real universal suffrage after launching her policy platform yesterday.
Mrs Lam, the leading candidate to be Hong Kong's next chief executive, facing off against pro-democracy protesters calling for real universal suffrage after launching her policy platform yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Pledge made as young activists gatecrash chief executive candidate's press event

Mrs Carrie Lam, seen as the frontrunner in the race to become Hong Kong's next chief executive, has said she wants young people to take part in the discussion and formulation of government policies.

The city's former chief secretary, 59, pledged yesterday to engage young Hong Kongers in "meaningful dialogues" and get them to take a more active role in the discussion and debate on public affairs.

Ironically, minutes before she was to deliver the final part of her policy pledges, more than a dozen young activists gatecrashed the press conference to demand that the public be allowed to elect the city's leader.

Among them were Mr Joshua Wong, the face of the 2014 Occupy Protests, and lawmaker Lau Siu Lai. The group said they were there "to act" and "to connect" with Mrs Lam - a play on her "We Connect" campaign slogan.

The event was delayed by about 40 minutes.

Mrs Lam, who has secured more than 400 nominations to qualify for the March 26 leadership race, said she will submit them to the returning officer today.

MENDING THE DIVIDE

People want me to restore social harmony so that Hong Kong can reform, tackling all the issues we have.

HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE HOPEFUL CARRIE LAM, on why she has not listed political reform and the China-backed national security Bill as priorities, unlike her rival contenders.

Former financial chief John Tsang submitted his 160 nominations on Saturday and his candidacy was confirmed yesterday.

Another contender is retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, who submitted 180 nominations yesterday.

Former security chief and lawmaker Regina Ip, 66, is still struggling to secure 150 nominations - the minimum required.

Nominations will close at 5pm tomorrow.

Unlike her rival contenders, who have listed political reform and a China-backed national security Bill as priorities, Mrs Lam noted that the two issues have proven to be "extremely controversial" and have caused the current split in the society.

"People want me to restore social harmony so that Hong Kong can reform, tackling all the issues we have," Mrs Lam said, adding she does not think any chief executive should rush into revisiting those two issues.

In 2014, when she was chief secretary, Mrs Lam failed to push for a political reform package that would see candidates for chief executive being vetted by a pro-Beijing committee before giving Hong Kongers the right to elect their leader.

The controversial package led thousands of students to camp out in the streets for 79 days to demand a freer election.

In 2003, the government's attempt to push through an unpopular national security Bill - often referred to as Article 23 - saw half a million people take to the streets in protest.

The Bill was shelved.

Yesterday, Mrs Lam focused her speech on issues like people's livelihood, civil service, economy and youth, in what analysts called a populist-leaning manifesto.

Political analyst Willy Lam noted how Mrs Lam promised an open administration and open dialogue with young people against a backdrop of disgruntled youth demanding equality and universal suffrage in the city.

"Young people obviously took part in the 2014 Occupy movement. It is good for her image that she tries to disassociate herself from (incumbent) Leung Chun Ying now. She made a mistake earlier when she said that she would continue Mr Leung's policies, which got her dubbed as 'CY Leung 2.0'," said Dr Lam.

Mrs Lam also pledged her support to extend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance - which criminalises officials soliciting or accepting an advantage - to cover the chief executive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Lam vows to engage HK youth in dialogues'. Print Edition | Subscribe