Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference to announce her candidacy for the 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election. Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence
Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference to announce her candidacy for the 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election. Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s love of Hong Kong compelled the former chief secretary for administration to contest the chief executive election in March.

Lam formally declared her intention to a media scrum of reporters television crews and photographers in Chinese in Wan Chai on Monday, three hours after Beijing approved her resignation.

“I’m running in the chief executive election,” Lam said, “because I love the city, I care about the livelihood of seven million people, and I’m willing to continue to lead the 170,000 civil servants to serve the people of Hong Kong.”

The State Council accepted resignations from Lam and her colleague Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah on Monday afternoon, state Xinhua news agency reported. In a statement issued on the same afternoon, Tsang said he would hold a press conference within days to announce his decision.

Britain ended its colonial rule of Hong Kong, and handed the city back to China in 1997, under the special arrangement of “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong enjoys high degree of autonomy, while Beijing retains the ultimate right to appoint principal officials.

“I’m worried about the discontent that has emerged in our society,” Lam said as she outlined her mission, focusing on the economic problems in society. “I know our younger generation are concerned about the lack of upward mobility and the cost of housing.” She said she would be running “for the younger generation.”

The younger generation has taken a more active role in social issues in recent years. Students leaders were at the center of the 79-day long Occupy Movement in 2014, striving for greater democracy in the Asian financial hub’s elections for the chief executive as well as the legislature from Beijing.

In response to a question on her stance on political reform, Lam only said she would take a “pragmatic approach.” She led the previous consultation on electoral reform between 2013 and 2015 that was eventually vetoed by the city’s Legislative Council.

“I’m confident that Hong Kong’s strength remains robust and unique,” Lam said. “I share the desires of many to ignite Hong Kong’s can-do spirit.” Lam said she would diversify the economy and create quality employment opportunities.

Yet, many have worried if Lam would get enough support from the election committee dominated by business elites, given her past position in the Social Welfare Department.

To win the election, Lam would need to first secure least 150 nominations from the 1,200-strong election committee to be placed on the ballot, and then win a simple majority vote on March 26.

“I fully support a free economy and believe that capitalism is the best system for Hong Kong to maintain its economic momentum and create job opportunities,” Lam said.

Bernard Chan, a member of the government’s top advisory body the Executive Council and is also Lam’s campaign manager, said it will be challenging for Lam because she decided late to join the race.

Three others also want the job: Retired high court justice Woo Kwok-hing, lawmaker and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, and a former member of a pro-Beijing party Wu Sai-chuen.

Through engaging with the public, Lam has consistently called for Hong Kong people to unite, a stance which is in line with messages from top Beijing officials responsible for Hong Kong affairs published in a magazine last month.

“As long as we love the city, my vision for Hong Kong is attainable and achievable,” Lam said.

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