Hong Kong's incoming chief executive Carrie Lam may not have an A team of ministers to assist her after she takes office on July 1, but she is someone who can get things done, according to former chief secretary Anson Chan.
The ringing endorsement from Mrs Chan is notable, given that the 77-year-old prominent pro-democracy figure was once touted as the person most likely to become Hong Kong's first female chief executive.
That honour has gone to the 60-year- old Mrs Lam, who was also the city's chief secretary before stepping down to run for Hong Kong's highest political office.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Mrs Chan noted the hurdles faced by the chief executive-elect in forming her Cabinet. Shedding light on the selection process, Mrs Chan said Mrs Lam did not have a "completely free hand" in the selection process, as the appointees would have to be approved by Beijing.
She said Beijing's main criterion is based on the person's loyalty to Beijing. "It's not what we are used to in Hong Kong, which is that you select people on the basis of their abilities, their commitment, their credibility, their standing in the community and, therefore, their support within the community," she said.
As the city's chief secretary from 1993 to 2001, Mrs Chan played a key role in overseeing the transition of Hong Kong from a British colony to a Special Administration Region (SAR) of China.
"So it's loyalty above ability, and that unfortunately does not produce a capable, talented team that has the vision, the courage and the political will to tackle some rather difficult issues. I think this has to change."
But if Mrs Lam is "left to her own devices, some of her instincts are in the right place and she can deliver", Mrs Chan said on Thursday, a day after the incoming leader revealed her Cabinet line-up.
Mrs Lam had earlier said she wanted to fill her team with talent from across the political spectrum and inject new blood into her governing team. But out of 16 key officials in her team, only Dr Law Chi Kwong, a founding member of the Democratic Party, was recruited from outside of the government.
Analysts say Beijing's increased interference in the city's affairs has put off potential candidates.
Mrs Chan said today's Hong Kong is a very polarised society, with an extremely disillusioned younger generation sad about the "steady erosion of our lifestyle, core values, our basic rights and freedom".
"So, they identify themselves very much first as Hong Kongers, second as Hong Kong Chinese and only third as Chinese."
"Many people think the atmosphere today is very toxic in the legislature," said Mrs Chan, who put the blame on outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's policies to keep the anti-establishment camp at arm's length.
"In the old days, we used to have disagreements with the legislature too. But there was also considerable give and take. Politics is the art of the possible. So Carrie realises that she has to work out a relationship with the legislature that will allow all political parties, irrespective of their political affiliations, to communicate, to have the opportunity to discuss policies with the SAR government," said Mrs Chan.
Whether pro-Beijing or pro- democracy, they are after all directly elected by Hong Kong voters, and represent the voters' choice. So it is very bad policy for the government to just ostracise them, Mrs Chan added.
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Mrs Anson Chan on how Carrie Lam can gain the support of Hong Kongers. http://str.sg/4EWN