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Carrie Lam new Hong Kong leader

28 March 2017

On 26 March Carrie Lam (59) was elected the new chief executive of Hong Kong. A former senior civil servant Lam was chosen by a 1200 strong electoral committee which includes 70 members of the territory's legislature, the Legislative Council - half of whom are directly elected. However, most of the Election Committee is chosen by business, professional or special interest groups.

Lam, widely viewed as the favourite candidate of Beijing, won 777 of the votes easily beating her rivals - John Tsang, a former financial secretary who got 365 votes, and Woo Kwok-hing, a retired judge who got just 21 votes.

The election committee has been widely criticised by the pro-democracy camp that organised the famous sit-in for 80 days during 2014. In the end the democrats could not agree on how to change the system and thus the old system remained in place. There were some spirited election rallies and TV debates but the fact remains that the vast majority of Hong Kong’s nearly 9m population could not vote.

The unpopular current chief executive, Mr Leung, steps down on 1 July. Mrs Lam, his deputy, will enjoy greater public support than her predecessor and promised to tackle the growing problems facing Hong Kong citizens including affordable housing and improving education. In her acceptance speech she promised to heal the divisions in Hong Kong society and ‘tap the forces of our young people.’ She also promised to uphold Hong Kong's core values such as ‘inclusiveness, freedoms of the press and of speech, respect for human rights and the rule of law.’

This will not be easy in light of Beijing’s growing assertiveness over Hong Kong. Chinese officials say Hong Kong’s chief executive must be someone ‘who loves China and Hong Kong; enjoys the trust of central government; is a capable administrator; and has the support of Hong Kong’s people.’ It remains to be seen how Carrie Lam walks this particular tightrope.