Hong Kong leadership candidates Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Woo Kwok-hing met for the first public debate of the election race on Sunday. Popular underdog John Tsang Chun-wah was absent from the forum, organised by think tank Path of Democracy.
During the 90-minute event, Woo, a retired judge whose 180 nominations all came from the city’s pan-democratic political bloc, claimed that Lam, who quit as the government’s No 2 official in January, was responsible for inflaming social divides.
“Lam was the top aide to [current chief executive] Leung Chun-ying and so is responsible for the splits today,” Woo said. He added that the former chief secretary’s failure to implement political reforms had triggered the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 and deepened mistrust between Beijing and young people in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Lam tried to distance herself from Leung, dismissing suggestions by Woo that she was “Leung Chun-ying 2.0”. “I had never heard of such a label before my election bid ... The fact is, we are very different,” she said. “[Leung] is a man and I am a woman. He spent his career in the private sector while I have devoted myself to public service.”
YP junior reporter Cedric Li, 17, from Sha Tin College thought Lam was a better debater and candidate. “It was unfair of Woo to accuse her of splitting society,” he said. “She showed her passion for serving the community and her willingness to listen. She is more able to bridge the divide between the city and Beijing.”
Shahryar Naeem, 19, from the University of Hong Kong, said Woo’s judicial background will help him build a fair society. “Woo is a retired judge who is familiar with the legal system,” says Naeem. “I believe he can uphold a high degree of autonomy, rule of law and judicial independence as stipulated by the Basic Law.”