By Chris Yeung —
Against the background of the opposition force being crushed, an seemingly intensified publicity campaign against Chief Executive Carrie Lam for her dismal performance in beating the Covid-19 epidemic and leadership as a whole is intriguing.
It came at a time when her five-year term is entering the last 18 months. By this time next year, her political future looks certain to have become clear. Or put it bluntly, she should know by then whether she will be given a blessing from Beijing for her to govern the city for five more years beginning from 2022.
Just about three weeks ago, that question seemed to be merely academic as soon as she delivered her 2020 Policy Address.
The lengthy speech was likened by pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien as a de facto re-election manifesto. He said her chance of re-election was over 90 per cent.
Tien could not be faulted for putting his bet on Lam’s re-election bid.The once-beleaguered leader, who has already declared she was back to her old self in September, was imbued with self-proclaimed confidence when she rolled out plans for the next 12 months.
She has vowed to “restart Hong Kong” with renewed perseverance in the wake of months of violence clashes between Police and protesters across the city.
In a sign of her fresh vigor, she gave interviews to all Chinese and English channels of free-to-air and pay television stations, except TVB Pearl’s Straight Talk programme hosted by Michael Chugani, one of the harsh critics of Lam.
And in an interview with the South China Morning Post, she was unapologetic about her handling of the now-ditched extradition bill, which ignited the storm of protests last year.
It is abundantly clear that she is keen to send a clear message that she is ready to run for another term.
The outbreak of the fourth attack of the epidemic in the past two weeks has derailed her policy plans for the next 12 months. Worse, it has exposed the incompetence of her team in the anti-epidemic battle.
First came the veiled attacks by pro-establishment politicians and media for her refusal of launching a mandatory universal test among the populace. Proponents including former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying have insisted it is a proven success in achieving the “zero-case” target in the mainland. That Lam has rejected the idea shows a lack of political will and a mentality of resistance against the China Way, just like many in the Western countries.
Increasingly, the target of attack is not so much about bureaucratic inertia, but the essentials of Lam’s leadership.
Pro-establishment political commentators showed no mercy lambasting her dearth of strong political will and guts in making tough decisions. They include the imposition of mandatory universal coronavirus tests and harsher quarantine measures.
They remain unconvinced by Lam’s argument, which is not unfounded, that the idea of mandatory universal tests is neither enforceable nor effective in beating the virus. She cited the congruent view of the Government-appointed medical experts as justification.
Her attempt to kill the idea of mandatory tests once and for all has failed. Pro-Beijing politicians and columnists have kept their pressure on her to change her mind up till now.
The open discord, verging clash, between the pro-establishment camp and Lam over mandatory tests has shed some light on the fragility of their relations.
It could not be more ironic that their relationship saw more strain after the almost entire fleet of democrat legislature was either ousted or had no choice but to walk out on their own following the passage of a set of new rules on disqualification of lawmakers by China’s national legislature.
Then came the article written by Chris Wat Wing-yin, a red-hot columnist in the “blue” camp, or the pro-Beijing and pro-establishment camp, in which she admitted mistakes in backing Lam since she took power. Wat blasted Lam for her failure to understand what people think and feel.
Likened herself as the boy who told the truth to the King on his face that he was naked, Wat wrote she believes Beijing would also like to hear the truth.
Much has been said about the close connection between Wat and former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, making her salvo against Lam more juicy.
The truth is that by telling the naked truth of Lam’s weaknesses, Wat’s self-proclaimed naivety will prompt some rethink in the pro-establishment camp and the Beijing leadership on the merits and demerits of keeping Lam’s job.
This article was first published on Apple Daily website on December 16.