Carrie Lam is congratulated by her husband and son after she won the election for Hong Kong's next Chief Executive in Hong Kong, China March 26, 2017.   Reuters/Bobby Yip
Carrie Lam is congratulated by her husband and son after she won the election for Hong Kong's next Chief Executive in Hong Kong, China March 26, 2017. Reuters/Bobby Yip

Hong Kong’s first female government leader-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to unite a divided city after winning the election on Sunday.

“Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from a serious divisiveness, and has accumulated a lot of frustrations,” said Lam in her victory speech. “My priority will be to heal the divide, ease the frustrations and unite our society to move forward.

“The election is over,” Lam added. “It is through real work and actual results that I will respond to those who support me and garner the recognition of those who have yet to support me.”

Lam joined the then administrative services of the government in 1980 after graduating from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

“I felt rather confident that my years of public service meant that I should know things reasonably well,” Lam said. “In the process, however… I see my shortcomings and understand that I must put in more efforts.” She will take up her post as chief executive in July.

The former chief secretary for administration, 59, beat her rivals former colleague and financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, 65, and retired high court judge Woo Kwok-hing, 71.

A yellow umbrella, the symbol of the Occupy Central movement, is displayed before candidates John Tsang, Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing. Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip

Even though she secured 777 votes from the 1194-member election committee dominated by Beijing loyalists and business elites, some still doubt her ability to heal society.

Pro-democracy lawmaker and chairman of Demosisto Nathan Law Kwun-chung said he expected more street protests, given Lam’s low rating. “There will not even be a honeymoon period,” Law said.

Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung  Photo: Asia Times

James Tien Pei-chun, former chairman of the Liberal Party, said some Hong Kong businessmen had voted for Lam as they hoped the central government would continue to support Hong Kong’s economy.

Former Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun Photo: Asia Times

In a poll local weekly HK01 released one day before the election and conducted by the HKU’s Public Opinion Programme, Lam only had a popularity rating of 29% while her former colleague Tsang led with 59%.

Carrie Lam, flanked by rivals John Tsang (left) and Woo Kwok-hing, waves after becoming the first female leader of Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip

Lam also promised to speak up for Hong Kong people in front of Beijing, given the current mistrust and confrontations between the two sides.

“As the chief executive, I have a duty to speak up for Hong Kong people, and address the concerns of Hong Kong people,” Lam said. She would also visit the Beijing’s liaison office as part of protocol, denying that it was any intention to befriend Beijing.

Tsang said he hoped Lam could deliver on her pledge to unite society. “Today is the sunset of my civil service career,” Tsang said. “I have not made up my mind [about my future], and I need to think through it.”

Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing said: “I hope she can deliver what she promised, uniting Hong Kong, and bring us back to a harmonious society,” Woo said. “To make Hong Kong a nice place for everybody to live in.”

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, which is the largest political party in the Legislative Council, said the party would seek more cooperation with the new chief executive.

Peter Lam Kin-ngok, chairman of Lai Sun Development, said he believed Lam would be able to gain public support with policies that would benefit Hong Kong.

Lai Sun Development chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok  Photo: Asia Times