Hong Kong No 2 official John Lee’s focus is on national security, not other policy issues, Carrie Lam says

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Hong Kong’s leader has said she will not expect her newly promoted deputy to oversee policies on youth, ethnic minorities and poverty alleviation in light of his lack of experience in those areas, but she holds high hopes over his ability to curb national security threats.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said her latest cabinet reshuffle – in which security chief John Lee Ka-chiu was appointed as chief secretary while police commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung took over his previous portfolio – was aimed at improving governance. Lee, a former police officer, had faced criticism over his perceived lack of policy experience.

“While the national security law imposed on Hong Kong last June has yielded immediate results, what happened recently still casts a shadow [over society],” Lam told a radio programme on Sunday without elaborating further.

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Carrie Lam made the comments on a Sunday radio show. Photo: Nora Tam
Carrie Lam made the comments on a Sunday radio show. Photo: Nora Tam

Apart from punishing those who endanger national security, Lam said it was also important for the government to prevent such acts in the first place. The administration needed someone familiar with the importance of national security, she added.

“I have told John Lee I do not expect him to work on poverty alleviation or issues concerning youth and ethnic minorities, because of his lack of experience. We will play to our strengths respectively, with me spending more effort on these aspects,” Lam said. “But Lee must beef up our safeguarding of national security, including prevention work.”

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On this front, Lam said prevention not only included the requirement to have all public officers take an oath of allegiance, but also sufficient guidance on national security to the education and media sectors, as well as strengthening awareness of the law in society.

As the city’s No 2 official, the chief secretary traditionally plays a key role in ensuring coordination in policy formulation and implementation, particularly those that cut across bureaus, and is by default the chairman of several consultative bodies, such as the Youth Development Commission, Commission on Poverty and Commission on Children.

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Lam also said her final policy address – to be unveiled on October 6 – would not be aimed at pleasing the public or fulfilling expectations, but rather to outline her vision of Hong Kong’s future in the coming five to 10 years.

It might instead sound like a policy blueprint penned by a chief executive who just assumed office, she said.

“Some former chief executives may focus on satisfying residents’ needs. But we should realise that the way the government sees Hong Kong is different from that of citizens, as the administration should have the foresight to envision the future,” Lam said, adding she already expected critics to challenge her final blueprint as “too vague” or something that only looked good on paper.

Lam also said the efficiency of her administration was “not too bad” despite the unprecedented challenges faced in recent years, claiming only a few of some 900 policy initiatives floated in her previous four policy addresses had failed to materialise.

But she remained tight-lipped on a re-election bid, insisting this was not part of her consideration in crafting the policy address.

Asked if she needed to secure family support for a second term, Lam declined to talk about her private life.

“I will not answer any of these questions, as tears well up in my eyes whenever I talk about my family, who have sacrificed a lot for me,” she said. Lam was later seen wiping her eyes with tissue paper.

The next chief executive election will take place on March 27 next year.

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