The Carrie Lam report exposed how the ‘Executive Dominant’ political system failed Hong Kong

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Throughout 2019, Hong Kong was in midst of a political crisis. The non-consulted Extradition Bill triggered protests against the government, then entrenched by police brutality. At the dawn of 2020, the city was hit with the Coronavirus crisis, and the government created a crisis of its own by mismanaging its economic, health and homeland security policies.

Instead of concentrating on protecting the citizens, Chief Executive Carrie Lam seemingly put her effort in filing a complaint on the performance of her own government to the Beijing authorities. The report was leaked to Apple Daily (a Hong Kong-based Chinese language newspaper) and it caused an uproar in the mass media towards her character.

Apple Daily reported on 22/02/2020 that Carrie Lam laid the blame not only on opposition parties and “radical elements” of the protest movements, she fiercely attacked her Executive Council for being incompetent and pro-government parties for being unsupportive, while some pro-government legislators even criticised her with personal attacks. She also asked Beijing to allow those from Hong Kong who were stuck in Wuhan to return home, so ‘the Hong Kongers can feel Beijing actually cared about them’.

This report exposed a few weaknesses in Hong Kong’s political system:

Firstly, according to the former head of Central Policy Unit, the think tank of the government; Mr Lau Siu Kai said the Hong Kong political system is ‘Separation of Power under the Domination of the Executive Branch’. However, the report showed the Executive branch cannot control the legislative assembly as wished.

With pro-government parties having a majority, the legislative assembly was still powerless to provide any solution to the crisis. Carrie Lam cannot enforce discipline in the council and Executive Council infightings is a norm. Given the Executive domination, once it malfunctioned, the whole government ceased; showing its fragility as a destiny.

Secondly, the approval rate of Carrie Lam fell to only 8% in the most recent opinion poll. The public became angry because of the failure of the government to close the border in order to stop the Coronavirus from spreading, and not making any compromise in accepting the ‘5 demands’ from the protest movements. Border closure is highly recommended by health professionals.

Yet, Carrie Lam had the illusion that the public was angry because they did not feel the care from Beijing. She was determined to yield power by using the police force as a crackdown mechanism. The current Hong Kong political system did not provide any checks and balance for any opposition to monitor the government policies effectively.

Thirdly, under the Basic Law, the Chief Executive should have the power to fire any members of the government. This report indeed shows she was powerless to fire any of the executive council members without the approval of Beijing.

Unfortunately it was the time when the Beijing was hit by Coronavirus; neither should it have been the case under the concept of ‘One Country Two Systems’. Once the nerve of Beijing was paralysed, the Hong Kong government was unable to make any decision. The city was on the edge of losing its ability to govern.

* Larry Ngan is Data Officer for Brent Liberal Democrats, a member of Friends of Hong Kong and a campaigner on Hong Kong affairs.

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