A vaguely brighter side to Carrie Lam


Fragrant and elegant former Chief Secretary Anson Chan gives the Hong Kong public the benefit of her wisdom on the subject of next Chief Executive. Financial Secretary John Tsang, she says, ticks all the right boxes in terms of dedication to the community’s core values, law and rights and freedoms. She goes on to accuse current Chief Secretary Carrie Lam of too-readily assuring Beijing of her continued adherence to CY Leung Thought and the recent Leninist-psychopath assault on the city. (Dame Conscience briefly dismisses third and ultra-desperate wannabe Regina Ip for much the same reason.)

carrie-cyThis might confirm what many right-thinking people feel. However, it is not as simple as ‘John is nice, Carrie is nasty’.

To be sure, John looks appealing to Hong Kong’s anti-Communist decadent bourgeois and radical youth: growing up in the US, assisting last Governor Chris Patten, enjoying coffee, French cinema and ‘local’ (non-Mainland) culture. Carrie, meanwhile, looks scary – having loyally served CY Leung and the Liaison Office on the political non-reform package, the purge of loyalists and other ideological campaigns.

However, there are more dimensions to it.

John is widely viewed as laid-back and uninterested in difficult changes, while Carrie has a no-nonsense reputation for getting things done. So, although John is supposed to have a magical ability to unite the community and restore harmony, he would not fix the serious economic and structural problems that create much of discontent and anger in the first place. Carrie, on the other hand, might upset and irritate everyone by overriding opposition, but she might actually improve the housing and welfare side of things in the process – and calm this restless corner of the empire.

It gets murky. Among John’s biggest supporters behind the scenes are the same people who backed Henry Tang in 2012 – including, of course, the property tycoons. There may be an element of revenge in this; indeed it could even be personal, as Carrie was Development Secretary, thus in charge of the Buildings Dept, which enforces laws against… illegal basements. There will definitely be an element of self-interest.

carrie-blueAnd murkier still. The word is that Carrie Lam is hugely, massively, stunningly unpopular with the top-ranking civil servants for being pushy, demanding, ‘my way or the highway’ and generally a pain. They would much prefer laid-back John (and indeed many would rather have CY Leung, who doesn’t know the inner workings of the bureaucracy).

The smug, pompous senior civil servants are – along with property tycoons (and public housing tenants, Heung Yee Kuk and private car-drivers) – the most arrogant and entitled interest group in the city. Their longstanding resistance to change in land, education, welfare, the lot goes beyond mere laziness or hypocrisy into the realms of group culture, identity and sense of self-worth. They detest and fear Carrie for the stiletto-heeled jack-booted stomping she has in store for them.

Beijing will no doubt have a big hang-up about John Tsang’s Westernized and nativist baggage, anyway. But if it’s any consolation if/when Beijing openly picks her, think of Carrie Lam’s enemies.


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7 Responses to A vaguely brighter side to Carrie Lam

  1. Walter De Havilland says:

    Having had dealings with Carrie, I can attest to her domineering style. However, she never gets the job done. Her track record of seeing a task to completion is pretty poor. In fact, ones struggles to find a large project she steered to a successful conclusion. She is all style and presentation, with no substance. John is a nice fellow, but his chances are now doomed that Dame Anson CHAN, GCMG, CBE, GBM, JP, has come out to support him. The kiss of death.

  2. STK says:

    Nicely put!

    Kari Lamb was also in charge of handling NT “small house” extra floor(s) on top, and duly spoke tough; but to vanishingly little effect as far as I can see.

    Any hope that John Tsang would (for an unreal condition, as it’s not going to happen) be marginally better is just painting the deckchairs a different colour. It’s like believing China when it says the military-length airfields on former shoals are just for humanitarian purposes, or being grateful that a few more democrats can visit the mainland.

    Tung Chee-wah has been on great form recently, promoting the idea that real democracy has nothing to do with elections.

  3. Cassowary says:

    John Tsang’s always seemed like an empty suit to me. Shakes hands, smiles for photos, signs anything his civil service underlings push at him. And I suspect that if Beijing told him to bark at localists, he would roll over and do it. It was relatively easy for him to play the good guy when it wasn’t his job to carry that sack of shit. Which is why, despite the Occupy-democracy-splittists fiasco, I have a mild preference for Carrie Lam.

  4. Des Espoir says:

    I remember an AmCham breakfast talk given by Carrie in I think 2003 when she had just become Permanent Sec for Housing. Someone asked about the Small Village House policy, and she replied that it was the no.1 problem at the top of her in-tray, and she was most definitely going to get it all sorted out as top priority.

    Not much sign of someone who “gets things done”….

  5. LRE says:

    Yup I’d have pegged Pornstache as Beijing’s best choice to ameloriate their public image for 6 months before sacking him for being as useful as a chocolate scarf. Seems they’re going for Lam chop, not noticing that this does nothing to improve their popularity which is currently circling somewhere just below a Klansman at a Black lives matter rally.

    Of course the communist party — ironically enough — hasn’t had any experience at trying to appeal to the masses in living memory other than through troops with machine guns and armour backing them up. So I suppose it’s only natural that faced with perplexing terra icognito, they pull off the usual response of the unimaginative, risk-averse, self-involved kleptocrat everywhere: do exactly the same as the last time. Because what could possibly go wrong?

  6. WTF says:

    Meh, you forgot Wu Kwok Hing and the NT triads he’s so close to. He and Alfred Lam are not just tight with the Hung Yi Crooks, but he’s in the pot in part to keep the small house policy going, which the Hongs all like. Keeps housing tight and all that. Naturally he can’t win, but isn’t that what KMT said about the CCP, and everyone about Donald Strumpet?

  7. WTF says:

    BTW, don’t think for a second that the Hong’s don’t want the government to throw it’s reserves at the poor and middle class, as long as it’s restricted to buy goods from their duopoly stores, buying their housing stock, etc. They know the party has to end sooner or later, so why not loot the hosts’ pantry first.

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