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Monday, March 13, 2017, 09:17

Attentive ear, caring heart

By China Daily

Editor’s note: Her leadership style prioritizes listening, paying attention to many views and including all sectors of society in decision-making, Chief Executive candidate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on Friday, March 10.

Q: You’ve played many roles — mother, public servant and chief secretary for administration. You’ve also been described as one having a clear head and warm heart. A recent signed article by Judith Mackay published in China Daily described you as well-known for your “compassion, kindness and sense of fun”. We don’t see that very much in public. We are wondering where the softer side is.

A:  The softer side is kept for myself and my family. I rarely used my public opportunities to build up my personal profile. I spent every day in my official position trying to do things for the people of Hong Kong. I perhaps have sacrificed a bit in my private life because of my public duties.

For example, I did not manage to spend enough time with my mother before she passed away. Every time I spent a good period of time with her, it was when she was sick and hospitalized, then I had the obligation to visit her every day after work.

That’s why I appeal to people who are fortunate enough to still have aged parents, to spend more time with their parents. The same with my kids. Although I was already a professional woman, I spent a lot of time with my children when they were young.

I disciplined myself by not employing a full-time domestic helper. So in those days, I really needed to rush back home from the office in order to cook for them, to bathe them and to read books to them. But still, if you ask me, I would love to spend more time with my children.

Q: In your public policy initiative, you give priority to youth development. The youth has a crucial role for the future of Hong Kong. In your manifesto, you’ve set out a plan of education reform, in which you call for a stable, caring and inspiring environment. I have a two-pronged question — how do you envisage that environment, and how do you see it as engaging the young people?

A: Education is very, very important. The best investment that any government could do is to nurture the younger generation, because the younger generation is our future. We really want to help our young people to grow up as responsible citizens, who could not only build up their own career, but also could contribute back to society.

But ironically in my 36 years of public service, working in 20 different positions, I have never worked in education. To me, my involvement in education was when I was the chief secretary for administration. I oversaw a wide-range of policy areas, and education was one of them.

This time around, I have really benefited from my seven weeks of running this campaign, and have many opportunities to talk to people in the education sector, especially frontline teachers. I was very touched by their passion for quality education, and their devotion and commitment.

But at the same time, I heard a lot of teachers’ worries about not being given a permanent job. They work on a contract basis, sometimes even on what they told me was an 11-month contract, because there is summer holiday in school. So they won’t even be employed on a 12-month basis.

So that’s why on Feb 3, when I did not have my full manifesto ready, I already identified education as one of the three priorities for the next-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

And I crafted a set of words to describe my aspiration for education. I want to create for our students, teachers, principals and parents, a stable and caring environment which is both inspirational and very helpful to all these education stakeholders.

Of course, education is about people helping or nurturing people. But it does require some resources to address some of the imminent issues like the employment issue, hardware and software issue in schools, student-teacher ratio and things like that.

So on Feb 13, I announced that I felt very justified to inject more education resources into the system. I announced it as a first bite if I were elected the next Chief Executive. I would put in an extra HK$5 billion annual recurrent expenditure to help resolve some of the problems in the education sector.

Attentive ear, caring heart
Chief Executive candidate and former chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor steps out of her campaign office at the Convention Plaza in Wan Chai. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Q: You are viewed as the most experienced of the three candidates, and most trusted by the central government. That presents both advantages and challenges. How do you handle the ties with the central government and dealing with political opposition locally?

A: Well, first of all, I feel very honored if the Central People’s Government has trust and faith in me, but I just want to make it very clear that that sort of trust in a Chief Executive candidate or in a public official in the Hong Kong SAR Government is built on very solid foundation.

It’s not because they particularly favor me or because I am a woman that they felt they wanted to trust me or they wanted to have me as the next Chief Executive. But anyone who looks at my working history, especially my position as chief secretary for administration, which is the No 2 in the Hong Kong SAR Government, would realize that I have very solid experience working with the Central People’s Government and also with the provincial governments.

For 20 months in the current-term SAR government, I led a task force to work on the constitutional development. In those discussions, I worked with the Central People’s Government and other relevant authorities. In those interactions, they would know what sort of person I am, and the core values I have and how I have fully reflected the view of Hong Kong people.

At the provincial level, within the Hong Kong SAR Government, I was the chief secretary, chairman of a steering committee to oversee the cooperation between Hong Kong and various parts of the Central People’s Government, as well as the provincial authorities.

For example, together with the mayor of Shenzhen, we co-chaired cooperation meetings. Together with the vice-governor of Fujian, we co-chaired another cooperation platform between Hong Kong and Fujian.

And for the eight years in the Hong Kong SAR Government’s reconstruction projects in various part of Sichuan after the 2008 major earthquake in Wenchuan, I was the person in charge both when I was the secretary for development and when I was the chief secretary for administration, working with the Sichuan government.

So it was not just a very subjective preference for a person. That sort of trust and faith is, in my view, built on very solid foundation.

Q: How are you preparing your campaign?

A:  I have gone to each and every Election Committee (EC) sub-sector, even when that sub-sector is pre-dominated, or wholly owned, by the “pan-democratic” EC members. And in those conversations, I got the feeling that they are receptive to what I have shared with them in terms of my philosophy, in terms of what I said I would do in my manifesto.

The majority of the 300-plus “pan-democratic” members, I believe, won their seats in the Election Committee based on the political platform. But when I went to have a two-hour discussion with them, not every sub-sector talked about political issues. They talked about issues of concern to the sector. They talked about education, health, medical issues, social welfare and so on. And that’s why I could compile this manifesto responding to those issues.

For example,“pan-democratic” members from the allied health services sub-sector reflected their concerns to me. One concern is some of the allied health professionals like clinical psychologists, speech therapists and dietitians still do not have a statutory registration system in Hong Kong.

If a profession doesn’t have a statutory registration system, it is very difficult to raise your professional standards, because you would not be able to differentiate who is the genuine clinical psychologist that is well-trained and accredited, and who is not. I heard that concern. So in my manifesto, I said that if I were elected the next Chief Executive, I would bring in statutory registration systems for those allied health professionals. There are quite a number of such examples in my manifesto.

Attentive ear, caring heart
Chief Executive candidate Carrie Lam  Cheng Yuet-ngor (center) joins supporters when unveiling her campaign slogan ‘We Connect’ at a rally at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on Feb 3.  (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

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