HONG KONG, May 4 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's next leader, Carrie
Lam, vowed on Thursday to heal political and social divides,
pledging to return the global financial hub to its "normal
course of development".
Lam takes office on July 1 after being selected in March
amid widespread concern that Beijing's meddling had sealed her
victory and denied the freewheeling former British colony a more
The former civil service chief replaces her former boss,
incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, a deeply unpopular
leader widely viewed in the city as being too eager to please
Beijing's Communist Party leadership.
Those leaders are increasingly fearful that a fledgling
independence or secessionist movement in Hong Kong could spread,
and a Beijing official based in the city warned at the weekend
that further trouble could threaten its vaunted autonomy.
The city was promised widespread freedoms and legal
protections under a "one country, two systems" formula agreed
when Britain handed it back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Acknowledging tension and the city's restive youth, Lam said
she was aware of the city's problems and deeply polarized views.
"I will do my utmost to unify society and to bring Hong Kong
back to its normal course of development, because I think that
is the aspiration of the great majority of Hong Kong people,"
said Lam, who will become Hong Kong's first female leader.
She said her election manifesto had emphasized the need to
address the aspirations and "unhappiness" of young people with
greater opportunities and upward mobility.
"So together with my team from July 1, that is going to be
one of our policy priorities."
Lam offered no fresh specifics on any new policies or views
on political reform but she has previously said that unifying
society was a key goal, besides improving livelihoods and the
city’s troubled governance.
Many of the city's pro-democracy opposition and activists
were opposed to Lam's selection by a 1,200-person election panel
stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists, who
spurned the more popular candidate, former government financial
chief John Tsang.
She faces widespread fears that Hong Kong's freedoms are
under threat and must tackle soaring property prices that are,
in part, driving divisions and widening an extreme wealth gap.
Part of the public mistrust of Lam stems from her previously
close working ties with Leung, who ordered tear gas to be fired
at pro-democracy protesters in late 2014, during the
long-running 'Occupy' civil disobedience movement.
(Reporting by Greg Torode and Donny Kwok; Editing by Clarence