CARRIE LAM’S TERM of office as Hong Kong’s chief executive has been ill-starred. In what will probably be her last annual policy address this week, she laid out what she will leave to her successor.
Mostly that will be yet more national security legislation and related indoctrination in schools. She promised initiatives to thwart supposed threats to national security, including strengthening measures to combat local terrorism and bolstering cyber and data security. Legislation to criminalise ‘fake news’, hate speech and insults to public officers will be considered.
Lam also outlined plans to build a ‘Northern Metropolis’ in Hong Kong near the border with Shenzhen, which will provide homes for 2.5 million people and 500,000 jobs. Hong Kong chronic shortage of housing keeps property prices high, a grievance that Beijing glommed on to as an explanation of the city’s civil unrest in 2019.
Hong Kong’s next chief executive will be elected in March. Lam is eligible to stand for re-election but has not said whether she will. This Bystander doubts it; a few tearful words at the conclusion of her speech points that way.
As a bridge between Beijing and the Hong Kong public, she has been much trampled over. She is not a popular figure, but with the chief executive to be chosen by a committee of pro-Beijing electors, that does not matter. Beijing may choose to thumb its nose at local public opinion by keeping her on, but it is more likely that Hong Kong’s ‘new era’ will get a new chief executive. However, whoever that is, the role will primarily be a conduit of Beijing’s instructions.
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