Timothy Peirson-Smith: An early look into Carrie Lam’s administration

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The CE-elect now has a chance to prove that she is better than her predecessor by first picking her council members wisely.

On Sunday 26 March 2017, Carrie Lam was selected by the election committee to be fourth Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Lam will assume office on 1 July 2017.

In the election, held in secret ballot, there were 1,163 valid votes. Lam achieved a landslide majority of 777 votes, while her counterparts John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing took 365 and 21 votes respectively.

Lam’s electoral victory will break political precedence in Hong Kong in many ways. Not only will Lam be the first female Chief Executive but also the first to be elected with negative net approval rate, which will not afford her a ‘honeymoon’ period. However, the ‘tough fighter’ will have to charge at these problems with predominantly uncooperative parties. The day after her victory, Lam vowed to mend Hong Kong’s social divisions, and eight occupy central celebrity participants were arrested including two legislators, two social activists, a student leader, two university professors and a pastor. Although hardly orchestrated by the government or Lam, it has been interpreted by oppositional forces as a hostile move to topple the pan democrats’ ‘one-third’ control in the Legislative Council, and to undermine their presence in all sectors. To add to this degree of difficulty, there is also resistance from the outgoing establishment. On 28 March 2017 when the Chief Executive-elect expressed her wish to liaise with the incumbent government to halt the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) for Primary 3 students in May 2017, CY Leung replied a few hours later that “she can cancel it after 1 July” but not on his watch.

In the coming five years, Hong Kong will come to a critical point. Lam will inherit a basket of unanswered questions from her predecessor, and there is no way the Government can continue to dodge all these issues – a rapidly ageing population, radicalising youngsters, an overworked workforce, and insufficient investment on Research and Development. In the meantime, the perceived intervention from China to domestic affairs is wearing some Hong Kong people down, worst still wider society begins to acclimate to it. If the Chief Executive does not correct this perception at such crucial juncture, ‘we connect’ and the one country two systems – a core value – will suffer terminal erosion.

Although Lam does not intend to reorganise the government structure, she has pronounced a major cabinet reshuffle. To show herself not a ‘CY 2.0’, it is likely that she will remove key CY supporters such as the, short stay, Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, and other polarising secretaries such as Secretary for Education Eddie Ng. Lam may also promote several undersecretaries to rejuvenate the Cabinet, and add both women and friendly past co-workers. We share a table to list out potential key members of her cabinet.

Position Incumbent Possible Candidates
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung
  • Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Chief Secretary
  • Clement Cheung Wan-ching, Secretary for the Civil Service
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po
  • Peter Wong Tung-shun, Deputy Chairman, Chief Executive of AsiaPacific of HSBC; Group Managing Director of HSBC Group
  • Margaret Leung Ko May-yee, Deputy Chairwoman, Managing Director of Chong Hing Bank
  • Laura Cha Shih May-lung, Lam’s Financial Affairs Advisor, Member of Executive Council, Chairwoman of Financial Services Development Council, Non-Executive Deputy Chairwoman of HSBC
  • Frederick Ma Si-hang, Chairman of MTRC
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung
  • Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, Senior Counsel, Chairwoman of Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre
  • Johnny Mok Shu-luen, Senior Counsel, Member of HKSAR Basic Law Committee of National People’s Congress, Represented the government in a legal bid to unseat the four legislators, including ‘Longhair’ Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law and Edward Yiu
Convenor of the Executive Council Lam Woon-kwong
  • Bernard Charnwut Chan, Lam’s Campaign Manager, Member of the Executive Council, President of Asia Financial Holdings
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung
  • David Wong Yau-Ka, Lam’s economic adviser, Chairman of MPF Schemes Authority
Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Caejer Chan Ka-keung
  • Laurence Li, Lam’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Senior Counsel
  • Anita Fung Yuen-mei, Independent Non-executive Director of HKEX, former CEO of HSBC
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen
  • Lau Kong-wah, Former DAB Legislative Councilor, Secretary for Home Affairs
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim
  • Carrie Yau, Executive Director of VTC
  • Yeung Yun-hung, Undersecretary for education
  • Edward Yau Tang-wah, Director of the Chief Executive’s Office
  • Tai Hay-lap, Special Advisor of the Education University of Hong Kong, Former Secondary School Principal, Former Member of the Education Commission
Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung
  • Eric Ma Siu-cheung, Secretary for Development
  • Wai Chi-sing, Managing Director of Urban Renewal Authority, Former Permanent Secretary for Development
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing
  • Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment
  • Christine Loh Kung-wai, Undersecretary for the Environment
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah
  • Lau Kong-wah, Secretary for Home Affairs
  • Florence Hui Hui-fai, Undersecretary for Home Affairs
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man
  • Sophia Chan Siu-Chi, Undersecretary for Food and Health


*Other potential key members of Lam’s government include Annie Tam (Permanent Secretary for Labour and Welfare), Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei (Secretary-General of the Office of the Chief Executive-elect), Lam Woon-kwong (Convenor of Executive Council) and Law Chi-Kwong (Commission on Poverty). However, Law is a member of the Democratic Party. At the moment, the party forbids any of its members to serve either in the Government or the Executive Council.

Executive Counsel Limited is a business advisory and corporate governance consultancy. For enquiries, please contact Timothy J. Peirson-Smith, the Managing Director, via email at tjps@execounsel.com or by phone on +852 2550 0879.

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[starbox desc=”Timothy J Peirson-Smith

Timothy Peirson-Smith is the founder of Executive Counsel and an astute observer of the Hong Kong political scene and chairman of the Business Policy Unit of The British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.“]