Who is Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's new pro-Beijing leader?

Fiona Keating
Hong Kong chief executive vote

A senior Hong Kong government official has been elected as the new leader of the former British colony. Lam, 59, was named the victor after being nominated by 580 members of the city's election committee.

However, Hong Kong's first female chief executive, who is known for closely adhering to Beijing's policies, is not a popular choice for many of the city's residents. Pro-democracy activists voiced their displeasure at her election a rally on 25 and 26 March, where scuffles broke out with police. Banners were carried through the streets, including one which read: "Lies, coercion, whitewash."

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Demonstrators were angry at what they perceive as Beijing's "interference" in the election process.

A poll from last week showed that 29.5% of Hong Kongers supported Lam, while 46.6% in favour of former finance secretary John Tsang. A third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing received 10.1% in the poll.

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Sources close to Lam say she is hard-working and intelligent, although she faces a difficult task of unifying the Chinese-ruled city in the face of growing resentment from the pro-democracy faction.

"Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustrations. My priority will be to heal the divide," she said after her win.

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Lam, who was Hong Kong's number two official, earned a nickname of "the fighter" by local media, according to NDTV.

"Picking Carrie as chief secretary was Mr Leung's [a former chief executive] best appointment," said a senior government official. Although she could sometimes be a "bully", he added.

Student leaders have criticised her for being "vague" in televised meetings during the 2014 protests.

Lam has been dismissed by pro-democracy activists as a Beijing puppet after promoting the Beijing-backed political reform package that sparked 2014's Umbrella Movement rallies that called for completely free elections, without China's vetting of candidates.

Lam said on Sunday (26 March), that she wanted more democracy for Hong Kong and would prioritise issues such as housing.

Lam is the daughter of a Shanghainese immigrant who worked on the docks, while her mother did not have a formal education. The new leader, who becomes head of Hong Kong on 1 July, studied sociology at the University of Hong Kong. A devout Catholic, she is married to a former mathematician Lam Siu-por in 1984 whom she met during while studying at Cambridge University. The couple has two sons who studied in England and all three of her family members are British citizens.

When Hong Kong was returned to China's control in 1997, after being a British colony, it became a special administrative region (SAR), which officially gave it a large amount of independence from China's central government. However, China attempts to keep Hong Kong under its control through law enforcement and appointing officials which side with the Mainland. However, Lam has vowed to uphold Hong Kong's semi-autonomous "one country, two systems" form of government.

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