HONG KONG - Raymond Tam Chi-yuen has taken to fresh pastures after leaving the government in July last year when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor set up the fifth-term administration.
Since last October Tam has been with an enterprise co-founded by his ex-boss, former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung.
Tam also decided to stand for election to the National People’s Congress. He won a place, drawing 1,580 votes which ranked him at 15th of the 36 elected deputies – the second-best result for a new entrant.
Tam was the principal official for constitutional and electoral affairs for nearly 10 years. As a trio, Lam, Tam and then secretary for justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung handled constitutional development for nearly two years.
“We had good, close working relations. I cannot say it had soured but it had come to a time we didn’t always see eye to eye. I also said last year it is healthy to have different opinions in a team. If team members have the same opinions, the team will be leaning toward the other side,” he explained.
Tam also revealed that he would probably have stayed in the post if the previous chief executive Leung Chun-ying had remained in the position for a second term.
Leung Chun-ying was very receptive to opinions and suggestions, he added.
“On some occasions he had rather strong views on certain issues and I had strong views too. And in the end, he accepted my suggestions. Our relationship has been good and we also dined together in Beijing last month,” Tam disclosed.
Tam had worked closely with other chief executives, serving as director of the CE’s Office in Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s era.
“Donald (Tsang) was someone who gave a total free hand to his staff. He will not employ you if he suspects you, but if he employs you, he will not suspect you,” Tam remarked.
“I accepted the post because he had trust in me. Because of his trust, we worked as best as we could not let him down.”
By-election win a delight
Since he was no longer an official, Tam could rally for Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, the candidate from the biggest political party in the Legislative Council – the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong – who won in last month’s LegCo by-election.
Tam was pleasantly surprised that Cheng beat an opposition candidate in the Kowloon West geographical constituency.
Equally, he was pleased the pro-establishment camp was so united for the campaign, demonstrating efficiency and a close-knit team pattern over the past two years under the leadership of Martin Liao Cheung-kong, the “prefect” of the camp.
“Vincent (Cheng) is a nice young man with ideals and a presentable public image. Being a district councilor for 10 years in that constituency, he has shown huge commitments to serving the residents.
“I campaigned for him on one or two occasions, as well as playing guitar and singing with him live on Facebook. Other ex-officials Ko Wing-man and K.C. Chan rallied for him too. I didn’t know whether ‘an old battery’ like me would help or harm his campaign but the feedback was okay,” he said jokingly.
Given that the March 11 polling day clashed with the annual national legislative and consultative two sessions, all 36 NPC deputies remained in Beijing and could not return to Hong Kong to cast votes.
Tam remembered a by-election was last held in February 2016. Scheduled for the end of February after the Lunar New Year holidays and budget speech, it did not clash with the two sessions, which are fixed in March every year.
“When I knew in Beijing that Vincent had won, I was very happy. The result was the most unexpected because I thought he would lose.
“I have summed up why he won. First, his personal qualities are okay. Since Lam has become CE, the social atmosphere has relaxed and there are fewer confrontations,” Tam said.
“Of course, people were tired of filibusters and disturbances in LegCo over the past years and wanted to elect a pragmatic lawmaker, while his opponent’s electioneering strategies were desperately unrealistic,” he analyzed.
Tam reminded Cheng that when the general election comes in 2020, the proportional representation system will be used. This will be different from the “single-seat, single-vote” system used for by-elections.