Carrie Lam officially appointed Hong Kong leader by Beijing

Lam to take office as chief executive on July 1st, 20 years after Hong Kong handover

Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive-elect Carrie Lam shakes hands with China’s president Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday. Photograph: Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP

Carrie Lam has received her official seal of appointment as Hong Kong's next chief executive from Beijing, with President Xi Jinping expressing his "full support" while reminding of her heavy responsibility to resolve the conflicts and challenges facing the territory.

Ms Lam was in the Chinese capital for a four-day visit during which she was given her certificate of appointment by Premier Li Keqiang and met Mr Xi in the Chinese leadership compound, Zhongnanhai.

Hong Kong enjoys a high level of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" model of government put in place when the territory reverted to Chinese rule 20 years ago this summer, but there are fears China is trying to exert more control in the former crown colony.

While Ms Lam has the strong backing of the ruling Communist Party, the Beijing leadership is deeply concerned about growing support for the independence movement in Hong Kong.


“On the issue of Hong Kong independence, in line with what the premier has said, there is no future and no room,” Ms Lam said after meeting the premier.

First female leader

In a process described by critics as a “selection” rather than an “election”, Ms Lam received 777 votes from the 1,194-member election committee on March 26th to become the first female leader of Hong Kong.

“In the next five years, in particular in economic development, there are many areas in which we need support from the central government,” Ms Lam said.

She officially takes office on July 1st, when Mr Xi will attend an event in Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover.

Protesters seeking more autonomy are expected to stage demonstrations during the event.

The territory remains deeply divided since the “Umbrella” protests in late 2014 that brought many parts of downtown Hong Kong to a standstill.

After their meeting in Beijing, Mr Xi reiterated his strong support for Ms Lam but insisted conflicts must be addressed in the interest of stability.

“In the past 20 years, Hong Kong has gone through many ups and downs. Especially in recent years, some long-standing conflicts and problems have been gradually exposed,” he said. “At this stage, there are challenges and risks, but there are also opportunities and hopes. As the new chief executive, you have a great responsibility,” said Mr Xi.

She has pledged to unify Hong Kong and heal political divisions during her tenure, as well as introduce affordable housing for the less-well-off.

On her return to Hong Kong, the 59-year-old former chief secretary said she planned to start work immediately on forming her government and transferring power from current chief executive CY Leung.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing