Lam plays down special place

Top News | Phoenix Un 24 Oct 2018

Wearing a pink jacket with matching qipao, Chief Executive Carrie Lam walked side by side with President Xi Jinping into the ceremony's venue, where 700 guests awaited.

Vice Premier Han Zheng and Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on were in the second row, followed by Vice Premier Liu He and Guangdong party secretary Li Xi.

The three vice chairmen of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - Tung Chee-hwa, Leung Chun-ying and Edmund Ho Hau-wah - were in the last row.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said Lam's position showed Beijing valued Hong Kong a lot.

Convener of the Independent Commentators Association Bruce Lui Ping-kuen said: "Beijing has been hoping a chief executive would finish two terms of office, but that has never happened, and Beijing considers Lam an able official and politically trustworthy, so Beijing would like her to be there for two terms to finish difficult tasks such as the enactment of Basic Law Article 23."

Lui said Xi may be conveying the message that he endorses Lam.

Another reason, according to Lui, was that the mainland wants Hong Kong to be a breakthrough point in the Sino-American trade war. "Beijing is now under siege in the trade war and can do little in international trade, so Hong Kong is important as it can cooperate with foreign companies and import sensitive technologies."

But Lam played down any significance, saying she was the only woman among the officiating guests and that the two vice premiers were gentlemen enough to allow her to walk beside Xi.

When asked whether that showed Xi's support for her "Lantau Tomorrow Vision" plan and enactment of the Basic Law Article 23, Lam said she did not see this implication. She said she had a brief meeting with Xi yesterday morning and he told her that the bridge would boost the traveler and logistic flow.

Xi was the last to speak during the ceremony. People expected him to give a speech, but as Xi only said "I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge officially open," guests did not applaud until Xi himself did.

Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xi needed to come to the opening as the bridge was a world-class construction, or else people would speculate that he had lost influence in Beijing.

Lau believed that Xi did not give a speech because no matter what he said, "he might not achieve what he wants." If he said something hardline, Lau said, it might raise a rebuttal from the United States, while the country's morale might be harmed if he sounded too soft.

Due to tight security arrangements, guests could not bring their phones or cameras into the venue. Legislators of both SARs and other guests went over to the press zone and asked reporters to help take photos, then bowed to thank them.

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