Beijing backing carries day for Lam

Editorial | Mary Ma 7 Nov 2019

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's meetings with our state leaders were preceded by widespread speculation that her days as the chief executive might be numbered.

That kind of speculation should have been crushed by now - even if that's not completely - in the wake of her meetings with President Xi Jinping in Shanghai and Vice Premier Han Zheng in Beijing.

On both occasions, the two state leaders generously backed Lam with a public message Hongkongers - especially those in the pro-Beijing camp who scorn her for putting the SAR in its worst ever crisis - could not possibly miss.

Xi's official schedule in Shanghai might have been tight, but he still spared Lam 30 minutes or so in the evening at extremely short notice.

There, before the full glare of media cameras, he affirmed Beijing's "high level of trust" in her while fully acknowledging her work and reiterating it's the SAR's priority to restore order and punish those responsible for violence.

Yesterday, Han voiced similar lines of support for Lam and the police. But Han went on to say that while housing was of the utmost concern for Hongkongers in the lower income segment, Lam could rely on Beijing for backing.

The message, coming as it did from two of the most powerful leader of the country, was meant, on the one hand, for public consumption and, on the other, for Beijing loyalists.

The latter group worries Beijing, for some of them had started to treat Lam's political demise as a matter of time given a Financial Times' report she would soon be stepping down.

The report has aroused keen interest in Lam's future. Just as interesting has been Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's refusing to let up in challenging Lam, pointedly setting a deadline of mid-December for Lam to restore peace and stability to the territory.

Ip would do well not to miss Beijing's clear message that no one apart from central authorities can determine whether Lam's days in the top job in Hong Kong are coming to an end.

Also, with Han's assurance, Lam may approach Beijing for assistance if her ambitious program to increase public housing meets local resistance. Han's pledge of support by Beijing in this regard is a veiled reminder to landlords like village clans under the umbrella of Heung Yee Kuk to follow Beijing's lead. Isn't it an open secret that the kuk is unhappy with Lam's plan to resume large tracts in the New Territories for public housing?

Again, as both state leaders emphasized the urgent need to end the unrest, they clearly delineated it as a task for Hong Kong to resolve within the means at its disposal, a continuation of the policy previously defined by State Council officials.

Will pressure mount on the police to intensify its crackdown even more brutally? Let's wait and see.

That's it for the public remarks. It's most likely that Han would have been more elaborate after the TV cameras were turned off.

A recent communist party central committee meeting ended with calls for improvements to Hong Kong's legal system to safeguard national security and its mechanism of appointing and removing the chief executive and key officials of the SAR.

Did Han elaborate on these important subjects?

It would be great if Lam can reveal more the next time she is able to speak to the press at length.


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