Chief Exec may be bumped as protests continue . . .
As Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s leadership continues to be challenged, The Financial Times reported yesterday that the Chinese central government is considering replacing her with an interim leader for the remainder of her term. Lam has been in the hot seat since June, when her extradition bill sparked the largest protests in recent Hong Kong history. While the government officially withdrew the extradition bill yesterday, there is no sign that the protests are dying down as protesters continue to demand greater political reform and democratic rights. If China’s President Xi Jinping gives the okay, the embattled Lam’s successor could be in power as soon as March.
An olive branch from Lam . . .
In an effort to calm the increasingly violent unrest, Lam proposed a number of economic measures in her recent policy address. These include everything from relaxing the ceiling on mortgage financing for first time home buyers to providing a “one-off living subsidy” for low income households. Pro-democratic lawmakers, however, have criticized the measures as “irrelevant” to the wider political problem.
The view from Beijing . . .
China’s Foreign Ministry has formally denied that plans to replace the special administrative region’s chief executive are on the table and characterized The Financial Times report as “a political rumour with ulterior motives.” If a leadership change were to occur while the situation in Hong Kong remains fluid and volatile, Beijing may appear to be acquiescing to the protesters. Beijing would also need to take a hard look into potential candidates who have experience in the public sector – and can be trusted. Whether a leadership change occurs in the near- or longer term, Hong Kong’s political turmoil appears to be increasingly entrenched.
- Financial Times: Beijing draws up plan to replace Carrie Lam as Hong Kong chief
- Hong Kong Free Press: Hong Kong Policy Address 2019: Democrats blast Lam’s ‘irrelevant’ speech as pro-Beijing camp offer lukewarm welcome
- Hong Kong Government: The Chief Executive’s 2019 policy address