A number of pro-democracy politicians have criticised the lack of new faces in chief executive-elect Carrie Lam’s cabinet, who were appointed by the Chinese State Council on Wednesday morning.
Lam will inherit her top three officials from predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s administration, namely Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and Financial Secretary Paul Chan. Only one member of the cabinet – Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong – has been recruited from outside government.
Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok referred to Lam’s February election campaign pledge of a “new style of governance” in his criticism of the new cabinet on Facebook: “The so-called new administration and new style of governance is to take old people and promote or transfer them.”
Demosisto’s Nathan Law said that some of the remaining officials had been involved in controversies during Leung Chun-ying’s administration. These included Paul Chan – whose family owned land in the New Territories which he planned to urbanise as former development chief – and Rimsky Yuen, an applicant in the government’s judicial reviews to disqualify pro-democracy and localist lawmakers.
“John Lee is the first secretary for security to come from the police force,” wrote Law on Facebook. “We can expect that the problem of excessive power by the force will not be resolved appropriately.”
“The entire cabinet only has one woman – Sophia Chan – the gender ratio is extremely tilted.”
On Tuesday evening, local broadcaster NowTV reported rumours that Carrie Lam had originally proposed former Bar Association chairperson Winnie Tam as secretary for justice. But her nomination was vetoed by Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s government organ in Hong Kong.
“Actually, a lot of people from different backgrounds refused to join the new cabinet,” pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee said at the legislature on Wednesday. “It’s not like what you [reporters] say, that the Central Government refused to appoint someone.”
“Overall, [the new cabinet] is experienced,” she added. “They are political figures who know how the government works.”
Although undersecretaries and lower-level appointments have not yet been announced, local media reported rumours on Wednesday that Choi Yuk-lin – vice chairperson of a pro-Beijing education group – will serve as under-secretary for education. Choi lost to incumbent education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen during last September’s legislative elections.
“To be defeated in an election means you are not supported or trusted by voters,” Ip told reporters. “To then be acknowledged by the government is a violation of political ethics, it’s a slap on the face of voters.”