Hong Kong's independence not a priority for leader-elect Carrie Lam

A burgeoning movement to separate from mainland China has Beijing worried. Lam, who was elected by a pro-China committee, says her priorities will be unifying the autonomous territory of Hong Kong and tackling housing costs.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Hong Kong leader-elect Carrie Lam attends a news conference in Beijing, China. April 11, 2017.

Hong Kong leader-elect Carrie Lam said on Tuesday there is no room for moves towards independence from mainland China. Hong Kong, a former British colony, she said, needs the support of the central government in Beijing to boost economic development over the next five years.

The financial hub transitioned from colonial to Chinese rule in 1997, with a promise of autonomy for the next 50 years in most areas except military and diplomacy. However, leaders in Beijing have been increasingly concerned about a fledgling independence movement in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong has seen tumultuous times over the past couple of years with pro-democracy protests quelled, an increase in what many residents see as creeping interference by Beijing, and the rise of a small but vocal movement pushing for independence.

Lam was chosen in March to be Hong Kong's next leader. Its first female leader was chosen by a 1,200-person "election committee" stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists.

Lam said unifying society and healing political divisions will be among her most urgent tasks. She has also vowed to tackle the high cost of housing in one of the world's most expensive property markets.

Moving to self-rule

Huge pro-democracy protests in late 2014 brought parts of the autonomous territory to a standstill and hindered policy-making and legislative work.

The promotion of independence has long been taboo in Hong Kong amid fears in Beijing that the notion could spread to activists in other places and become a challenge to central government rule.

The next few months will be critical for incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying and Lam, with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to visit on July 1 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from the British. Protests are expected. 


TRTWorld and agencies