Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met mainland Chinese officials in Shenzhen on Friday to discuss her administration’s anti-pandemic work and the coming chief executive election, nominations for which will officially open in two days.
Multiple sources told the Post that Lam left for the mainland in the morning, with one saying she met Xia Baolong, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, to talk about the leadership race and how the mainland could help Hong Kong fight its ongoing fifth wave of coronavirus infections.
Xia is in Shenzhen coordinating the central government’s anti-epidemic support for Hong Kong.
Lam cancelled her daily Covid-19 press briefing on Friday, with her office attributing the move to “a change in schedule arrangements”.
Her sit-down with Xia came after the Communist Party’s Politburo held a meeting on Monday and its standing committee, the leadership’s highest decision-making body, met on Thursday.
One source familiar with the matter said the chief executive election was discussed at the Monday meeting, along with other key provincial-level official reshuffles, but the insider said no decision had been made regarding the city’s race on that day.
A Xinhua report said the Monday meeting looked at “recent work”, without further elaborating on the meeting details.
“[Thursday’s] Politburo Standing Committee meeting had a final decision on the election, and it was forwarded to Lam late last night, so she cancelled the presser and headed north,” the source said, declining to divulge any further information.
Xinhua reported that members of the standing committee heard a report on Thursday on the handling of the deadly crash of the China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 on March 21 and made arrangements for follow-up work, with Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech.
“Other matters were also discussed at the meeting,” the report said.
Another source said the chief executive election would go ahead as scheduled on May 8.
On March 11, Premier Li Keqiang hinted to journalists at a press conference after the National People’s Congress’ annual session that the election, already delayed by more than a month, was unlikely to be postponed again.
“The change in the term of the special administrative region government will be conducted in strict accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law,” Li said at the time.
Sources from the pro-establishment camp said that in the past few days, many of them received calls from Beijing’s liaison office asking them to remain in the city during the nomination period from April 3 to 16, and on election day on May 8.
“We were asked not to leave Hong Kong, and if there are any circumstances in which we have to leave, we have to report to the liaison office,” one source said.
Another source added: “The liaison office has regularly sought the views of the Election Committee members about their preferred chief executive candidates and Carrie Lam’s performance. And just one week ago, it contacted the members again to reaffirm their views about Lam and their suggested candidates.”
Hong Kong’s election authority previously confirmed May 8 as the date for the city’s leadership race, with the nomination period set to run from April 3 to 16. The election had originally been scheduled to take place on March 27.
Lam has remained coy as to whether she will seek re-election, while speculation has swirled around other likely contenders, such as Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and former city leader Leung Chun-ying. However, so far only outsider candidates have publicly expressed their intention to run.
The Post has approached the chief executive’s office for comment.