Signs of discord between Lam, Leung

Mrs Carrie Lam and Mr Leung Chun Ying at a press conference on Monday, a day after the former won the election. But some feel there is a power struggle between the two.
Mrs Carrie Lam and Mr Leung Chun Ying at a press conference on Monday, a day after the former won the election. But some feel there is a power struggle between the two.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They disagree over scrapping of school test; timing of activists' prosecution also an issue

Just two days after Mrs Carrie Lam was elected Hong Kong's first female Chief Executive, signs of discord between her and outgoing leader Leung Chun Ying have already surfaced.

Mrs Lam, 59, told a radio programme yesterday that she plans to scrap a controversial competency test for Primary 3 pupils by May.

But Mr Leung later told reporters that "even if scrapped, it will be after July 1".

Asked about Mr Leung's response, Mrs Lam told reporters that if the current administration has difficulty scrapping the test, she would need to respect that decision.

This was not the only challenge thrown the former chief secretary's way by her former boss.

A day after Mrs Lam won the election and vowed to heal political divisions, nine pro-democracy activists were prosecuted for their roles in the 2014 Occupy protest.

  • Lam wants more women on her team

  • HONG KONG • The first woman to be elected Hong Kong's Chief Executive has said she hopes to appoint at least three women in her Cabinet.

    Mrs Carrie Lam, in her victory speech on Sunday, urged more women to enter politics.

    "To the women of Hong Kong, I hope I will lead by example to encourage more women to take part in politics. To have comprehensive and stable political developments, we need more women to come out to take part in public services and politics," she said.

    Local media quoted political watchers as saying Hong Kong still has a long way to go to encourage greater female participation in politics.

    Former Democratic Party chairman and veteran politician Emily Lau cited the lack of family-friendly features. "There are no nursery facilities in the Legislative Council. If you want to have more young women take part in politics, you need to... make it easier for them to do so," she told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

    In the current administration, none of the secretaries is a woman - after Mrs Lam resigned from her post as chief secretary to run for the top job.

    Mrs Lam said she was looking for young talent who could serve more than one term to fill her Cabinet, according to SCMP. She has also promised to choose her Cabinet on merit rather than political affiliation.

    City University political scientist Ray Yep Kin Man said making the right Cabinet choices was key to Mrs Lam boosting her popularity.

    "She may not be able to invite the pan-democratic camp to join, but there are still many people with a good reputation."

Critics questioned the timing of the move, with some speculating that it was an act of "sabotage" by Mr Leung to make it difficult for Mrs Lam in the five years ahead.

Such clashes with Mr Leung have cast a shadow over Mrs Lam's attempts to get started on livelihood issues, such as education and housing, immediately after winning the election on Sunday.

While Mrs Lam takes office only in July, critics say it is crucial for her to fulfil her campaign promises as quickly as she can, given her low popularity ratings.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui said: "Carrie Lam has given hope to parents and students when she said during her election campaign that she wanted to scrap the TSA/BCA test. Now I am suspicious of her vows.

"It now looks like a power struggle between the two at the expense of parents and students. I am very angry and disappointed by this outcome."

Mrs Lam and the other two chief executive contenders, Mr John Tsang and Mr Woo Kwok Hing, had promised to scrap the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) if elected.

The test was suspended last year after a public outcry by parents and teachers that the tests caused too much stress for children.

But the Education Bureau announced in January that it will introduce a new test in May and June.

The test is now called the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) test, which critics said is still the TSA but with a new name.

Yesterday, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin Yuen expressed disappointment at Mr Leung's unwillingness to listen to the voices of parents and children.

Mrs Lam won the chief executive election with 777 votes from a largely pro-Beijing election committee, sparking concerns that her administration would be heavily influenced by the central government.

Mrs Lam, who had lower public approval ratings than her rival, Mr Tsang, faces the challenge of balancing Beijing's demands with Hong Kongers' concerns over the city's erosion of autonomy.

Besides getting to grips immediately with livelihood issues, Mrs Lam was set to visit three mainland bodies in the city - the central government's liaison office, the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong and the People's Liberation Army - today at the earliest.

Yesterday, she sought to assure Hong Kongers that her ministers would be "in charge of their own work" and there would be a high degree of autonomy.

"I will see that as a guiding principle of the new Cabinet," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Signs of discord between Lam, Leung'. Print Edition | Subscribe