Hong Kong's former No. 2 official Carrie Lam has promised to introduce a new style of governance heavy on public engagement if she wins next month's chief executive election.
The former chief secretary went for a casual look at her first election rally yesterday, appearing in a blue T-shirt over a pink long-sleeved top, bearing her campaign slogan "We Connect".
Making her way to the stage with 15 young people donning the same blue T-shirt, the 59-year-old declared her love for the city and said the highly divided society needs to "stay united and charge forward".
She also pledged to introduce a new philosophy towards public finance, allowing everyone in society to benefit from economic growth.
About 600 people, including business leaders and lawmakers, turned up at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to support Mrs Lam, widely seen as Beijing's preferred candidate.
She faces competition for the city's top job from former financial secretary John Tsang, 65, retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, and lawmaker and former security chief Regina Ip, 66, in the March 26 poll.
Even without providing many details, Mrs Lam's outlined proposals show she is aware that the conflicts in Hong Kong today have been caused in part by incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's style of governance, said analysts.
"C.Y. Leung's focus is to achieve the goals of Beijing, ignoring the reality in Hong Kong, especially political issues. It led to the society being divided into different factions. Even the pro-establishment camp has been split," said political analyst Johnny Lau.
By changing the style of governance, Mrs Lam might win support from various factions, he added.
Hours earlier, her strongest rival, Mr Tsang, launched a crowdfunding website for his campaign. He raised more than HK$1 million (S$181,500) on the first day.
Mr Tsang, apparently more popular with the pan-democrats, has also received support from Mr Mak Chai Kwong, who was Mrs Lam's former aide and succeeded her as development secretary.
Yesterday, Mrs Lam tried to portray herself as someone close to the ground. She shared her life story, from how she was born in a shophouse with no running water to her 36-year career in the civil service.
She also made fun of herself. She alluded to how she has made several gaffes recently, which led to criticism that she is out of touch. For instance, she apparently did not know where to buy toilet paper late at night or how to use an Octopus card at an MTR station.
"In the past two to three weeks, everyone has seen another side of me, a clumsy side of me," she said. "Now when I go out, my PR (public relations) team would immediately seize my Octopus card and cash."
She even explained why she is often seen in a cheongsam. "I may not have a good figure, but the cheongsam best shows the figure of Asian women. Indeed, foreign politicians were nice to me when I appeared in a cheongsam."
Her son Jeremy, who had initially objected to her candidacy, flew in from Beijing for the rally.
However, it was another young man who stood out - Mr Eason Chan, a pharmacy graduate, told the audience that he wrote to Mrs Lam about worries that fresh graduates like him faced in 2015, and was surprised to get a reply from her.
"She may appear not to have been communicating with people, but perhaps she has been doing so without us knowing," said Mr Chan.