Hong Kong’s first fe­male leader a ‘tilted bridge’ over trou­bled wa­ter

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Car­rie Lam, who was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first fe­male leader yes­ter­day, is a for­mer stu­dent ac­tivist who climbed the rungs of the civil ser­vice over 36 years, and a tough, ca­pa­ble and pos­si­bly di­vi­sive Bei­jing­backed leader. Lam, most re­cently Hong Kong’s num­ber two of­fi­cial, has to unify the Chi­nese-ruled city as pub­lic re­sent­ment swells at Bei­jing’s grow­ing in­ter­fer­ence in its af­fairs de­spite be­ing promised a high de­gree of au­ton­omy.

She also has to rein­vig­o­rate the econ­omy and ad­dress grow­ing so­cial inequal­i­ties and high prop­erty prices, is­sues Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping high­lighted at her swear­ing-in cer­e­mony. Sev­eral sources who have worked with Lam say she’s in­tel­li­gent, hard-work­ing and able to push con­tro­ver­sial gov­ern­ment poli­cies, earn­ing her the trust of Bei­jing fac­tions who strongly lob­bied for votes on her be­half when she was cho­sen in March.

But her hard­line and pro-Bei­jing ten­den­cies, say crit­ics and op­po­si­tion democrats, risk sow­ing fur­ther so­cial di­vi­sions in the for­mer Bri­tish colony that re­turned to China 20 years ago un­der a “one coun­try, two sys­tems” for­mula that guar­an­tees it wide-rang­ing free­doms. “Car­rie Lam ... is a night­mare for Hong Kong,” said stu­dent ac­tivist Joshua Wong in March, one of the lead­ers of the stu­dent-led “Um­brella Move­ment” protests in 2014 which blocked the streets for 79 days de­mand­ing full democ­racy.

“The­o­ret­i­cally, the chief ex­ec­u­tive is a bridge be­tween the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the Hong Kong peo­ple. But Lam will be a tilted bridge. She will only tell us what Bei­jing wants, and won’t re­flect what the peo­ple want to the com­mu­nist regime.” Lam, dubbed “the fighter” by me­dia, was once the most pop­u­lar of­fi­cial in the cabi­net of staunchly pro-Bei­jing for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive, Le­ung Chun-ying, who in 2012 won a sim­i­lar elec­tion re­stricted to just 1,200 vot­ers. “Pick­ing Car­rie as chief sec­re­tary was Le­ung’s best ap­point­ment,” said a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia. But she could also some­times be a “bully”, he added.

Lam’s pop­u­lar­ity be­gan to slip just as a younger gen­er­a­tion of pro­test­ers rose to promi­nence, and tum­bled fur­ther dur­ing the course of her elec­tion cam­paign this year. Her at­tempt to push through a planned Palace Mu­seum in Hong Kong, show­ing arte­facts from the mu­seum in Bei­jing’s For­bid­den City, was crit­i­cised for be­ing pre­sented as a done deal with­out pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, high­light­ing what some de­scribe as her “au­to­cratic” style, ac­cord­ing to a source who knows her. —Reuters

—AFP

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam (right) shakes hands with China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping as he pre­pares to de­part from Hong Kong’s in­ter­na­tional air­port yes­ter­day.

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