Famous last words - Final election face off in front of just 507 EC members

Top News | Phoenix Un 20 Mar 2017

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pronounced last night "I am ready" to become chief executive - but bitter rival John Tsang Chun-wah mocked her saying she would be a "three-low" CE with low popularity, low energy and low legitimacy.

Lam, Tsang and the third contender in the CE race, Woo Kwok-hing, debated in the last election forum before next Sunday's poll of the 1,194-strong Election Committee in a two-and half- hour event organized by EC members at the AsiaWorld-Expo.

But only 507 committee members attended. From the outset, the pan- democrats appeared to outnumber pro- establishment members, which was reflected in the questions fired at Lam.

In her opening speech, Lam said that what she called "malicious criticisms and unreasonable blaming" could not dampen her will in the race.

"I am ready," she declared to both boos and applause.

Social welfare subsector elector Pang Lok-yan expressed regret at Lam missing a meeting with grassroot residents in Tin Shui Wai on Saturday.

Lam apologized again, blaming "arrangement mistakes" for her absence - and mocked an unnamed former colleague for not visiting the community.

"We demanded incumbent officials visit communities, and no police were arranged. However, an unorthodox colleague never participated in the visits or had contact with citizens," Lam said, implying it was former financial secretary Tsang.

Woo said he went to Tin Shui Wai once he was invited, and said he never called police to protect him, "but wherever Lam goes, 100 or 200 [officers] surround her."

Tsang also said he went to Tin Shui Wai on March 8. "The journey is not that long. It just took me half an hour to go there from Wan Chai."

"Every time I visit the community I use the least number of police," Tsang said. "If there are too many officers, you can't listen to citizens."

Chik Nga-yin from the health services subsector interrogated Lam about the promises she made to the Federation of Students during the Occupy movement, especially the "multilateral platform" for different parties.

"All of you know what happened to Admiralty after that," Lam said, drawing another round of boos.

Woo said, as the leader of the three- person team on political reform, Lam's failure gave rise to Occupy.

"Her platform said it would need to wait until the social environment was suitable for political reform. How can she? No one agrees with [Beijing's] August 31 framework." Tsang said : "There are many examples of Mrs Lam's policies that were left unfinished."

As examples, he cited tackling illegal structures on village houses and the reconstruction of the Avenue of Stars, as well as what he called the "black-box operation" of the Palace Museum at West Kowloon.

Elector Ng Kwok-yan from the higher education subsector brought up Lam's comment that she would resign if mainstream opinion was against her.

Lam explained: "The chief executive has to listen to public opinion carefully, and turn the opinion into actual work."

But Tsang countered: "It's unprecedented that a chief executive has a negative approval rating before she assumes office.

"We can foresee a CE with low popularity, low energy and low acceptance - three lows - leading a three-low- government. The next five years will be tough."

Woo said that Lam's clarification of her "I will resign" the following day should teach her to speak carefully, saying: "If I were the judge, I would consider her a dishonest witness."

Lam used up all her allocated time to talk about how many of her old colleagues had joined her campaign office, but her strategy was criticized by medical subsector elector Kwong Po-yin.

"You are just burning up all your time available so that you don't need to answer questions," Kwong said.

Elector Wilfred Wong Ying-wai said 507 people joined the forum but there was no breakdown on which camp they belonged to.

Meanwhile, over 60 percent of 692 respondents to a University of Hong Kong poll asked after the forum said that, if given the chance to vote today, they would vote for Tsang.

Only 24 percent supported Lam and 7 percent Woo.

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