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What Carrie Lam Should Do Next

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam is lonely and beleaguered following huge protests against a deeply unpopular extradition law. To ease tensions in the city, Lam should announce that the proposed law is dead, and launch an open and independent inquiry into police activity during the protests.

LONDON – I do not know Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, very well. She worked for my administration when I was governor there. Diligent and well regarded – and Catholic, like many others in the then-colony’s civil service – she had been educated at Hong Kong University and at Cambridge. When I left in 1997, after sovereignty over the city was returned to China, she was rising through the ranks of the Treasury. In most administrations, the cleverest usually seem to gravitate to the economic departments, looking after the cash. I do not recall ever hearing a bad word about her.

Yet today, Lam finds herself lonely and beleaguered, although it is unclear whether she should take all the blame for what has happened to her. In any case, she must now display real leadership to ease the heightening tensions in the city.

Lam must have known what she was in for when she became chief executive in 2017. She was handpicked through an elaborate system designed to ensure that the communist regime in Beijing got the leader it wanted. But from 1997 until now, China’s rulers do not seem to have been very good at choosing people for the job. And their effort to dress up the whole process with some democratic trappings convinces no one.

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