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Tuesday, Apr 13, 2021

Carrie Lam sets sights on ‘improving’ Hong Kong’s education, media sectors

Carrie Lam sets sights on ‘improving’ Hong Kong’s education, media sectors

In an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the city’s chief executive targets areas analysts believe authorities partly blame for social unrest.

Hong Kong still has many systems that need to be improved, including education, the medcia, and the training and management of civil servants, the city’s leader has told state news agency Xinhua.

In an interview released on Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said there would be better conditions to implement the principle of “one country, two systems” in a robust manner after safeguarding national security and successfully implementing Beijing’s sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system.

But Lam singled out the three areas where she said “improvements” were needed in the systems.

“With this work being done, no matter if people are Hongkongers, mainlanders or foreigners, they should have more confidence in one country, two systems,” she said.

A political analyst believed these sectors were targeted because authorities believed they were linked to the anti-government protests in 2019, adding Lam’s comments showed she would like to seek a second term in office.

Lam also said Hong Kong had capable and responsible people, but the previous political system had given them a “chaotic feeling” which deterred them from running for office.

She expressed confidence that more talent would be attracted to join the system after the electoral changes and that would strengthen the executive-led political system.

On Tuesday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a sweeping proposal that radically overhauled Hong Kong’s electoral system.

The number of lawmakers elected to the Legislative Council by the general public was slashed to the lowest proportion since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, while the Beijing-controlled Election Committee was empowered to both field representatives of its own to the legislature and nominate those from outside their ranks.

A vetting committee comprising principal officials was also mandated to screen out candidates deemed “unpatriotic” with the help of the police national security unit. Lam’s committee for safeguarding national security will play an intermediary role between the two.

In the interview with Xinhua, Lam said the current legislative term, which began in 2016, dealt with lots of chaos in the first three years, but its functions basically resumed after four opposition lawmakers were disqualified last November and most of their colleagues quit.

She said lawmakers could still criticise the government and oppose their proposals after the overhaul, but they could not breach the one country, two systems principle or undermine national security.

Lam also said part of the goal of the changes was to allow the city to focus better on the local economy and improving people’s livelihoods, particularly on solving deep-rooted problems such as the city’s housing issues.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, believed changing the electoral system would not be the only step authorities take.

“To achieve the goals of having Hong Kong run by patriots, I believe they will purge voices deemed to be unpatriotic in the past,” Choy said.

He believed Beijing, the government and the establishment camp considered the media and education sectors to have played a part in causing the chaos that rocked the city during the social unrest.

He noted civil servants were also believed to have fuelled the movement because they took part in rallies and expressed their dissatisfaction.

“Given the issues were raised after the electoral overhaul and by Carrie Lam, it shows that she desires to seek another term and carry out what they [authorities] deem as unfinished ‘reform’,” he said.

The national security law, which was imposed on Hong Kong last June, states that the government shall take necessary measures to strengthen public communication and regulation over matters concerning national security, including those relating to schools and the media.

Chris Yeung Kin-hing, chairman of Hong Kong Journalist Association, said Lam’s latest remarks were yet another sign of her intention to further tighten controls over the media.

With the exception of public broadcaster RTHK and some news outlets with close connections to the mainland government, most news organisations in the city were owned and run by the private sector, he said.

“While abiding by the laws such as libel, the media adheres to self-regulation and are subjected to monitoring by the public. Any moves by the Government to ‘regulate’ and seek ‘improvement’ of the media gives rise to fears of more government control, posing more threats to the city’s free and independent press,” Yeung said.

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