×

Op-ed: Next steps after the Hong Kong election

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive-elect, speaks as her husband Lam Siu-por, left, and son Lam Jit-si, right, look on during a news conference following the chief executive election in Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive-elect, speaks as her husband Lam Siu-por, left, and son Lam Jit-si, right, look on during a news conference following the chief executive election in Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, March 26, 2017.

Now that we have a new chief executive, we should look forward rather than back. Still, let me make a brief observation so the falsification of history by groups such as the Civil Human Rights Front, the Civic Party and numerous opposition news sites doesn't go unchallenged.

Yes, as they had said, the vote by the 1,194 members on the Election Committee was another one of those "small-circle" polls. But we – all 3.8 million of the city's eligible voters – could have gone to the poll yesterday if all those pan-democratic lawmakers hadn't rejected the electoral reform package two years ago.

More from the South China Morning Post:
Newly elected Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to unite sharply divided city
Lam will get nowhere unless Beijing drops its hardline Hong Kong stance Carrie Lam wins Hong Kong's top job, but can she deliver?

Whatever you think about that flawed reform effort, having 3.8 million people voting yesterday across the city – rather than 1,194 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre – would have been a huge positive step for Hong Kong. So it's a bit rich that the usual suspects disrupted the election's result announcement by shouting: "I want real universal suffrage."

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor won with 777 votes, exceeding the 689 her predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, secured at the last election in 2012. As the opposition likes to vilify and dehumanise, it's out with Mr 689 and in with Mrs 777. But Lam is nothing like Leung. I for one am happy to see a smart and decent woman for a leader. She will face tremendous obstacles and great odds, though. She not only has to contend with an opposition that only knows how to say no, but her administration also risks being hijacked by vested interests that were more than willing to follow Beijing's call, yet will seek to make her beholden to them.

While it would be an exaggeration to say a state of war exists in Hong Kong, the level of mutual hostility and distrust is tearing our city apart. All the opposition lawmakers have jointly declared they won't work with Lam.

But before they jump on their high horse, they should consider a temporary truce. Without compromising their political bottom line, they owe it to Hong Kong people to work with the new government on livelihood issues such as housing expansion, education reform, retirement and increased health care subsidies.

On these, Lam is closer to the opposition than her supporters from the business sector. The opposition may win more credit by working with Lam than by just trying to destroy her as they did with Leung.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.