Carrie Lam has been sworn-in as Hong Kong’s first female chief executive, in a ceremony overseen by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It is the final day of Xi’s first “inspection tour” of the semi-autonomous city, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China.
“It is with a humble heart that I accept this greatest honour of my life, and prepare to take on the greatest challenge of my public service career,” said Lam in a speech.
“Over the next five years, I will respond to the trust and support placed in me by the people of Hong Kong and the Central People’s Government.”
A career civil servant who joined the Hong Kong government during the colonial period, Lam rose to become chief secretary to outgoing leader Leung Chun-ying in 2012.
In March, she was elected as chief executive by a small group of electors dominated by Beijing loyalists. There were widespread rumours that Beijing pressured voters to cast their ballots for her instead of the more popular former financial secretary John Tsang.
Lam mentioned in her speech that she will strengthen Hong Kong’s financial industry, technological industries, and traditional industries, and increase opportunities for young people.
She also said that Hong Kong should capitalise on China’s development, including that of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau bay economic area.
“Strengthening people’s trust in the HKSAR government is a key task for my team and I. But sometimes, there has been a tendency to make cynical accusations, and put personal grudges before objective facts. This has hurt the executive legislative relationship, hindered the government’s effectiveness, and directly dragged down our economic and social progress.”
Lam pledged to bring a new style of governance to Hong Kong during her campaign. However, she was criticised last month after she announced that the three top officials of her predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s cabinet would remain in their positions.
The area around the Wan Chai venue is on security lockdown during Xi’s visit.
Earlier this morning, several activists from the League of Social Democrats and Demosisto were arrested near the Exhibition Centre as they attempted to stage a protest at the daily flag-raising ceremony. Some – including the LSD’s Avery Ng – claimed they were assaulted by the police.
Thousands of protesters will march towards the Hong Kong government headquarters as part of an annual democracy rally this afternoon.
On this important day marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, and as witnessed by all here present, I have been sworn in by the President of the People’s Republic of China as the fifth-term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is with a humble heart that I accept this greatest honour of my life and prepare to take on the greatest challenge in my public service career. Over the next five years I will respond to the trust and support placed in me by the people of Hong Kong and the Central People’s Government with diligence and achievements of the governing team under my leadership.
Since our return to the Motherland 20 years ago, the principles of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy have been the foundations of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. In accordance with the Basic Law, the Chief Executive shall, as the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, be accountable to the Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. To accurately and comprehensively fulfil my duties as Chief Executive, I will resolutely do everything within my ability to implement the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, uphold the Basic Law, defend the rule of law, and promote a deep and positive relationship between the Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR. Amid the new circumstances and conflicts in society over the past few years, these seemingly straightforward and necessary tasks will test my political wisdom, patience, forbearance and ability to build community consensus. I will, as I always have, rise to these challenges and firmly take actions in accordance with the law against any acts that will undermine the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, abiding by “One Country, Two Systems”, in fulfilment of the mandate from the Central Government and our community.
During my ten-week campaign in the Chief Executive election, I attended over 100 “heart-to-heart” sessions with different sectors and gained a better grasp of the challenges faced by our economy and a deeper understanding of why our young people felt anxious and were uncertain about the future. I myself was also more worried about the ongoing conflicts in society causing Hong Kong to let opportunities slip by. After the election, I pledged that as Chief Executive I would identify the crux of the issues and take a more macro approach to pave the way forward for Hong Kong.
Over the past three months, as Chief Executive-elect, I have reached out further to meet more people from a wide range of sectors. This has included members of the Legislative Council, education groups, politicians, business people, visitors from the Mainland and overseas, entrepreneurs in innovation and technology, as well as young people. Their understanding and encouraging attitude, as well as words of advice, have all reinforced my firm confidence in the future of Hong Kong. While long-standing problems cannot be resolved overnight, we can tackle them with the benefit of very strong foundations, outstanding talents and the unique advantages of “One Country, Two Systems”. As long as we stand united and remain focused, I have no doubt that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights.
Hope propels a society forward, and confidence is the foundation of hope. We have no reason to lose confidence if we look closely and rationally at what we have achieved over the past two decades since our return to the Motherland. With the staunch support of our country, the strength of our systems and the resilience of our people, we have overcome financial crises and maintained economic growth. We have been rated as the world’s most competitive and freest economy. We have benefitted considerably from China’s reform and opening-up to become the world’s largest offshore renminbi centre. Our financial sector has received new impetus with the launch of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, as well as the upcoming Bond Connect. In global rankings for the rule of law, Hong Kong is a consistent leader; our judicial independence ranks 8th – and top in Asia – among the 138 economies assessed. Hong Kong is also one of the safest cities in the world – our overall crime rate last year was the lowest since 1972. Five of our universities rank among the world’s top 100, and the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong is the best dental school in the world.
We are of course proud of these remarkable achievements. But, there is no room for complacency. We will be left in the wake of the rising tide of competition if we do not propel our economy forward. My government will take on more proactive roles. As a facilitator and promoter, we will reinforce and upgrade Hong Kong’s traditional industries while promoting the development of innovation and technology and creative industries. We will inject new impetus to diversify the economy to create quality jobs for our workforce, especially our young people.
Strengthening people’s trust in the HKSAR Government is a key task of me and my team. For some time there has been a tendency to make cynical accusations, and to put personal grudges before objective facts. This has hurt the executive-legislature relationship, hindered governing effectiveness and directly dragged down our economic and social progress. During my campaign, I pledged to bring in a new style of governance to restore social harmony and rebuild public trust in the government. On the day I announced my line-up of Principal Officials, I promised to resolve problems for the people by being “Innovative”, “Interactive” and “Collaborative”. In due course, we will take forward specific measures to provide more opportunities for young people to take part in public policy discussions and implementation. By doing so, we aim not only to enhance their understanding of and trust in the government, but also to nurture future talent and leaders in society and politics.
Our hope for the future is also founded on our strong belief and reliance that the country will always be our staunch supporter, and we will continue to capitalise on our institutional strengths established by generations of hardworking Hong Kong people. From signing the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement 14 years ago, to giving Hong Kong – along with Macao – a dedicated chapter in the outlines of the 12th and 13th National Five-Year Plans; from supporting Hong Kong’s roles in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development plan, to joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank last month, our country has enabled immense opportunities for us. As we capitalise on our strengths and harness the opportunities presented by our country’s development, Hong Kong’s future is indeed bright and promising.
Economic growth provides the resources required to improve people’s livelihood. On issues such as land supply, environmental protection, labour rights, business environment, poverty alleviation etc., the Government needs to communicate better with Legislative Council members and all in the community so we can find common ground. As a starting point, I have held cordial discussions and established a good mutual understanding with the education sector over the last two months about the prioritisation of the $5 billion in new recurrent resources for education. It is a good example of how we can put aside differences to reach a consensus. The relevant proposals will be tabled in the Legislative Council this month.
My dear fellow citizens, my vision is for a Hong Kong of hope and happiness – a city that we are all proud to call our home. I see a vibrant international metropolis that is just, civilised, safe, affluent, blessed with the rule of law, compassionate and well-governed. To achieve this vision, we need to be a society that is united, harmonious and caring. This reminds me that when I launched the “Hong Kong, Our Home” public participation campaign co-ordinated by me four years ago, the objective was exactly to inject positive energy into society and foster social cohesion. The campaign’s Chinese theme song, “Sail On”, has this to say:
“There is a world we can go.
There are bright spots in life.
Soaring above the busy harbour and bustling city,
Lies narrow heritage lanes filled with love and passion.
Everyone feels lost sometimes, but we won’t give up hope.
We embrace all who show us trust in their eyes.
All you need is to see me by your side
Caring for you, all the way.”
I look forward to connecting with you all, to build an even better Hong Kong.