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A Conversation with Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR | DAVOS 2020

Fareed Zakaria
Host, Fareed Zakaria GPS at CNN
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World Economic Forum 2020
January 22, 2020, Davos, Switzerland
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A Conversation with Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR | DAVOS 2020
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About speakers

Fareed Zakaria
Host, Fareed Zakaria GPS at CNN
Carrie Lam
Chief Executive at Hong Kong SAR Government

BA, Yale University; PhD, Harvard. Formerly: ran Changing Security Environment project and taught International Politics and Economics, Harvard University; Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs; Managing Editor and Host, Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, PBS; Analyst, ABC News; Member, Weekly News Roundtable; Columnist, Washington Post; Contributor: New York Times; Wall Street Journal; New Yorker; Slate. Trustee: Manhattan Institute; New America Foundation; Shakespeare and Co. Editor-at-Large, TIME Magazine. Co-Editor, American Encounter - The US and the Making of the Modern World. Author: From Wealth to Power - The Unusual Origins of America's World Role; The Future of Freedom - Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad; The Post American World. Host, Fareed Zakaria GPS for CNN. Frequent speaker. Recipient of awards, including Emmy award.

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1980, joined the Administrative Service of the Hong Kong Government; 2006, reached rank of Administrative Officer Staff Grade A1; 2007, Principal Official when appointed Secretary for Development; 2012, appointed Chief Secretary for Administration. Has served the public for more than 36 years in 20 public service positions, including Director of Social Welfare, Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands), Director-General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Secretary for Development and Chief Secretary for Administration. March 2017, elected as the Fifth-Term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, officially appointed to this position by the Central People’s Government on 31 March 2017 to assume office on 1 July 2017.

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About the talk

A Conversation with Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR

Speakers: Carrie Lam, Fareed Zakaria

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We have absolutely no problem with peaceful demonstrations against anything under the sun with his myself my government as so-so livelihood issue lack of affordable housing, but on this supposed location over the last few months what we have seen in Hong Kong which is totally unprecedented and unfamiliar to us and everyone of you who knows Hong Kong. I love song, is that high degree of violence? Let me just Begin by saying chief executive has agreed to this conversation with no no preconditions and we

will try and make it as Frank and interesting as possible. I thought I would begin by welcome. You met him chief executive and thanking you for doing this doing this this session of ladies and gentlemen is also exceptional for me first. This is my third consecutive time in wef Davos the first time I'm giving this honor and privilege to do a one-on-one conversation. Although I was not expecting us CNN anchor challenging II exceptionalism show many of you who have followed

events in Hong Kong since June last year. This is perhaps after the first overseas media device. Do we got his as a media interview that I have taken? So I love to be as candid as possible to tell you something about Hong Kong's latest development. So let me start by asking you something that's on people's minds right now, which is what can you tell us about the Wuhan virus with some people look up there or calling the China virus. How rapidly does it seem to spread? How worried should we be?

So we call it the snow total Corona virus or pneumonia. We have been putting ourselves on a very highly of the cooling system because we learn from the past. I'm sure you still remember Hong Kong handling this fast in 2003 and subsequently avian flu and swine flu and the nurse virus and so on so we have to build up a pretty Red Lobster in veggieland system to put ourselves on the got a couple of hours ago have just announced that we have the first case of Highly suspicious. Infection in Hong Kong

from Passenger from work or from another city coming to Hong Kong. So this is from which has been put in place for almost 3 weeks now without being put into actual action. I have lost my health college to be really on the God because the public health is so very important to the community and where this rapid flow of people across the border. It makes Hong Kong even more vulnerable should there's a disease spread. So I want to show you that we have a system where the protocol we have the resources. We

have the isolation facilities in a public hospitals as well as in some of the makeshift isolation facilities making use of holiday comes if quarantine is needed for some of those in close contact with this particular passenger through our very effective contact raising. But finally of the the most important point is to keep people informed. So openness and transparency important features in any public health system and do we have been doing almost daily media reports from Tomorrow onwards at a time of the day.

My health. Kelis will come out to share with the community the latest situation. All right now to the to the largest stuff. I saw somewhere that you said you weren't sure what the protesters were still protesting about in Hong Kong given that you have withdrawn the extradition Bell and made clear that it is a dead letter from mice reading of the situation. They are protesting for other things now independent police commission kind of full democracy that they were protesting for doing the

umbrella protest cuz your resignation. So at this point it seems as though you know, there is this irresistible force of the protesters with a lot of public support and there is the immovable object of Kerri lamp What is going to happen? Well, let me first put it in the Hong Kong contact. Where are very used to protests and demonstrations on the annual basis. The police has to handle over 10,000 such events, whether they are public assemblies protest marches already called the police the public all the events. We have absolutely no problem

with peaceful demonstration against anything under the sun with his myself. My government is so so livelihood issue lack of affordable housing, but on this particular location over the last few months what we have seen in Hong Kong which is totally unprecedented and unfamiliar to us and everyone of you who knows Hong Kong. I love song kong is that high degree of olives? The total disrespect for differences in opinion that people were beaten when they hold a different opinion from some of these protesters all riotous. So to simplify all these protests as she

was fighting for democracy and for continuous freedoms might have underestimated the situation. So similarly for the government to provide a political response because the protesters old is the rioters wanted to see a particular response will not be a very prudent way of ensuring Hong Kong future and public interest. So every political demand has to be fully accept Against suffering 14 principles one whether it goes against his very important principle one country two systems that

is important to ensure Hong Kong's continue stability and prosperity. And also whether it will continue to enable us to preserve the rights and freedoms enjoyed by everyone in Hong Kong nachos to protest. What about what about a family is a policeman who have been intimidated and harassed route least mom's another principle is the rule of law to demand the chief executive to ask your secretary for justice to Grant and over amnesty to everyone arrested over the last few months is totally inconceivable in the contest of a rule of law Which Way house so dearly in

Hong Kong. And finally, I could not agree to demands that simply will destroy Hong Kong's well-founded institutions whether it is to Judiciary the law enforcement agencies the mass transit Railway corporation, which is represented a my delegation the airport Authority and even the freedom of the press all the media may be very unhappy with some of the things that a policeman have done trying to close of operations. I miss very difficult circumstances with over 10,000 petrol bones stronger than Arceus from University campuses and

the policeman being injured with corrosive liquid and the arrow being intruded into the lake offer a policeman. So I guess things goes off in the middle is unhappy that they have been treated not as decently as they would like to see we will improve it. The breeze has promised that they will improve it true that public relations. But it is very important to ensure that the media is as free as liberal as possible to report on this events. So this by pressure I can tell you for it doesn't take a lot of pressure know from the

protesters from the NT protest cab that I should control that I should make sure that everybody comes to my office all the police officers for an identification document before they could go down to the site to report I rather not because that would destroy or undermine one of the institutional streams in Hong Kong. That is a freedom of the media. But if one views it just from this very technical point of view. It seems to meet mrs. This larger upstairs that seems to be happening in Hong Kong ice or written across Central Square. You taught us it

during the umbrella movement that peaceful protest don't work this seems to hearken back to that and it is about this fundamental issue of will Hong Kong have what the protesters regard as genuine democracy. It seems that they have an enormous amount of public support between you know, if you look at the mass rallies, if you look at public opinion polls, and if you look at the most recent elections right by 17 out of 18 other of the constituencies flipped, Doesn't that tell you that this is something larger and that it has to be dealt with in a in a more fundamental

way that people in Hong Kong are scared that what makes the city special is going to go away. What makes the city special will not go away those rights and freedoms and shine under the basic law on the one country two systems will be fiercely safe. It not only by myself and my girlfriend but also by the central government time and again, the leaders have said that they want Hong Kong to succeed on the one country two systems because that is such an Innovative way that divides to solve a historical problem in Hong Kong and to ensure Hong Kong's stability, but I would

agree with you that it has free Society like home, There's something missing and that is in your terminology the genuine democracy in my terminology that is democracy that is with being within the Constitutional framework. Is Hong Kong is not a state Hong Kong is a special administrative region within the People's Republic of China. We have a basic law that on the one hand given gives us the freedoms the independence of Jewish race on the other hand. It has snowed in. Safe. To make sure that the Constitutional development is something that is acceptable

within that content. You mentioned that you think that these freedoms will be guaranteed by the set that the central government in Beijing. Can you own it on the basis of your conversations with them? Say that it is they have categorically ruled out a Tiananmen Square style Crackdown in Hong Kong. Well, well people focus on what has happened. I'm sure you watch the TV and got your own images and video clips, which I would suggest that you perhaps we need to look at the other side of the other reporting why people focus on what has happened in Hong Kong. I would

tell you something that has not happened in Hong Kong in the last 7 months. There's a massive budget Bloodshed on Hong Kong streets does some wanted to see has not happened in Hong Kong. The persons of the people's Liberation Army this trips on Hong Kong Street has not happened in Hong Kong except to clear the Blobfish on the road. Ackerville has not happened in Hong Kong. I have the authority to declare Kerrville to stop peoples of freedom of movement and going to offices has not happened in Hong Kong

during off the media. I wish someone wearing has not have a spare. As I said if everybody is committed to one country two systems like a what the central government has then one country two systems means all these freedoms and rights and finding a basic law. What do you think people in Hong Kong don't understand about the central government in Beijing. I wouldn't say everybody don't understand Hong Kong is a very open free and diverse Society. I think although we have been reunified with with the mainland of China for

trainees almost 23 years does accurate understanding of one country two systems and the full implementation of one country two systems has room for improvement. for example If we saw scenes of young people waving the American flags the UK flags and seeing young people forming themselves into parties to Appleton independence of Hong Kong. You cannot say that they understand why Country two systems if we have Dependable credit legislatures telling people that a piece of legislation called a nest of national anthem at is a

piece of evil legislation. That is not understanding of one country two systems. It would have young girls 15h defaced the national flag. and screw it into the Victoria Harbour that cannot be able to understanding one country two systems very good reporting that suggests and you can confirm that you were not ordered by Beijing to propose the treaty that is at the source of all that I'm sorry cuz good reporting that Beijing did not force you to put the Lord is that does that the heart of all these

protests that has not been withdrawn the extradition law that it was your idea. I'm wondering what were you thinking because it was it an attempt to show Beijing that you were more loyal you were loyal to them. What was why did you do it? But first of all, I can confirm or well what you have just mentioned as I did on several occasions this piece of legislative proposal was initiated by the Hong Kong as I'll go by myself. I got a team of a security colleagues and

Justice colleagues who have looked into the situation. So but once we have a suggestion since it would touch on the mainland Arrangements, we have the support of the central government all the way in processing this piece of legislation be there at 12 to let us take people said that okay, if you want to do is surrender fugit offenders to other parts of the world as well as to Mainland. We need more human rights safe. So we are central dogma where they were you should we could put into the law more safeguards along the lines of the iccpr and they said yes, so this is

what I said that we initiated the central government understood and supported us into Now coming to your question. Why did we do it? We are very conscientious bunch of officials. There are certain inadequacies in our legal regime when it comes to the surrender of fugitive fenders or it when it comes to Mutual legal assistance on criminal matters. As far as the letter there is a geographical limitation that Hong Kong could not have any thing to do in terms of providing usually go systems for criminal cases with other parts of China that is

mainland McCall Taiwan. Absolutely. Nothing we couldn't do anything to combat cross-border crime because that's your practical constraint in the legislation. The law allows us to realistically to do it with those. We have signed an agreement and we have signed only Trinity extradition agreement since many many years ago. But as you know, now a international crimes take place all over the world. So we look wrong into other legal regimes and discover that we do have a system which I believe is

Faison UK system to do such Expedition on a case-by-case basis without the need to sign an agreement. But each case has to be endorsed by the court before the chief executive cosign on a certificate to surrender and if we believe and I think we should believe because they're so many distinguished judges overseas involved in a quart of final appeal in Hong Kong that corpse in Hong Kong are independent. Then there is sufficient save that to show you that each case of application of surrender of a two digit of tender. We have to go through this independent call

various levels. The high court the court of final appeal and so on before the chief executive put sign on it. So I'm telling you a picture of the background because we are not do I get sudden they because we want to somebody I want to get some credit from somebody is because we have all these documented as deficiencies in our system and it was also challenged by fat pack the faction Financial festhalle. 1720 that that is a very significant deficient in the Hong Kong legal system when it comes to any anti money-laundering

cross-border Mutual legal assistance and and so on so this with that background, which is not just happened last year that the ground was documented in the government files were alone. Somebody shoot somebody should have that. That's a result of due diligence to to deal with this. But I would say that to everybody knows that sensitivity so wild open up for shows tend to have inertia. So nobody want wanted to touch this unless this murder case came around. There's a murder case in Taiwan involving to Hong Kong permanent residents one kill the other

and then fled back to Hong Kong and the Taiwan authorities originally asked her very solemnly for us to surrender him back to Taiwan for trial but because of the limitations we couldn't do it. So in a way prompted by this high-profile case we decided to take out the challenge and but I would confess that it's now proven to be a political phalia partly because of the nature of the matter because of a very large pee all Machinery of the Hong Kong government, especially face with the world class propaganda

2 challenges. Do you think though that have you learned something about the sensitivities of the Hong Kong people in the way? They have responded to the slaughter that again. It seems that the Lord has a symbol of a fear that one country two systems is being slowly eroded by the reach of beijing's legal administrative intelligence apparatus. That's why when people asked me to resign I said can I hang into practice what I have learned so that we can I can leave behind a better infrastructure for Hong Kong in dealing with challenges in future years.

I have learned that this by as I said to 23 years after reunification. We have not helped the people Hong Kong to better understand this very unique arrangement. We perhaps have not done enough in the National Education especially among. People who have a better understanding of what China is about and we have underestimated the Grievances of people which are not uncommon another faces where we have seen riots in recent years of all sorts of things like off of economic opportunities

for people with different backgrounds and different skills. The lack of diversification in all Industries is mainly a financial center trading Hub is about a nun for the ability of housing wish I'm sure Hong Kong is almost at West when it comes to Des Moines Madame Chic executive when I asked the protesters and I've had a few on the program. They all say don't get fooled by all that this is about democracy. I did not denied and I'm just giving you a full picture of what I've learned about the people sentiment and I think nobody would deny that this housing problem

this gap between the rich and the poor this concentration of wealth in the southern proportion of a population are all part of that that problem yoga approval rating is now at 14% It it must be very difficult to operate under the circumstances you privately we know you have ruminated about resigning why not resign, but I actually have just answered that question myself. It would be easy. It will be very easy to just run away or walk away from a situation and

one has to recognize is quite a messy situation. Now for those that you have set for adult men with very low level of support and credibility is very difficult to sew Goblin and to implement policies to Beto's policies are bound to be very controversial in an open and diverse Society like Hong Kong, but for those who understand the political structure and the position of chief executive in Hong Kong SAR leaving that position vacant will only create more uncertainty and confusion. And how come now is several crises to handle to manage

the economic recession this continued protests and the political discontent and lately a Public Health crisis. So I do feel that it is that same sense of responsibility that has motivated me three years ago to contest in the chief executive election that has given me that to a seminar to stay on but it's not easy. It's really not easy to stay on. Do you think that Hong Kong will one day have Universal adult suffrage democracy in which the candidates are not

pre-selected by Beijing but you know what generally speaking in the world would be considered a full-fledged liberal democracy or is that a pipe dream for the protesters? This goes back to the question that Hong Kong is not a state on those. Not the country Hong Kong is part of the People's Republic of China. So the political structure dictates that it has to be within that constitutional contest and that constitutional contest has laid out very clearly that when we reach the ultimate goal of having a chief executive elected by universal suffrage. It has to be candidates nominated by

a broadly representative nominating committee. So unless the basic love with amended that would be the Constitutional basis for any universal suffrage and every place has his own election system in America. You put that our candidates will have the largest number of popular votes, but still cannot be the president. So that is their system. We have a system that you need a broadly representative nominating committee 1200 Memphis. Maybe you could be added to another Locker number in future, but it has to be broadly representative. So it's not just representing the interests of the rich people is

probably representative at does the labor union that has a Chinese medical practitioners at engineer's Architects politicians and so on so as to nominate two or three we were we were very close to giving universal suffrage to the people Hong Kong in 2015. That was vetoed by the same group of legislators who said that they want multiple currency in Hong Kong. You know that this answer is not going to satisfy the protesters. What is the resolution than as I say you have you have these demands that they are making and they seem they seem unwilling to

back down and they have kept I kept at it and and you're using there's really no give on this fundamental issue. How will this end? Well, how old is Aunt will also depends on how the majority of Hong Kong people feel about Hong Kong Hong Kong? It's a wonderful place. I'm sure at least many people. I I met in the last couple of days came up to tell me that they they have a passion for Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong to be well, so if I'm not same feeling I do not want to see Hong Kong so that the tale rated into that sort

of State. No don't even know. I'm actually but also socially Then I think we have a better chance to find horchata Way Forward because I'm not suggesting that the government should do nothing and stand still we are about to announce the setting up of a Review Committee and independent Review Committee to look into the causes of this sucks change social unrest and to identify all these underlying issues deep-seated problems, including some of those may be related to one country two systems and map our way forward. We are continuing to engage with the people die locks have

taken place. Although we couldn't do it on the televised public way because forever now associate with the government or speaks with a government will be intimidated and harassed by the protesters on the next person's the will continue to do that. And even the full I have a review Report with recommendations in front of me. We are doing whatever we could in McAllen housing more affordable for the people Hong Kong in introducing more lively with matches, which I did a week ago to provide a better retirement protection for elderly people and to provide better terms of employment for the

non skilled laborers in Hong Kong, but I have I have this to a show you all finally that nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong. The rule of law has to be sound and well because it's under the fence all the successes and stability that Hong Kong people as well as the central Authority would like to see you said you met three times with Xi Jinping. Do you believe that the he is committed to maintaining the one country two systems and letting Hong Kong

have this Special status does it has definitely definitely have whatever you promise. This is more than any, I got some business people. Who is that once you have promised something you should all know that regardless of the difficulties without even the need to sign on a piece of paper. So I have received very clear messages from Preston see himself from other Central leaders that one country two systems is almost but it has to be accurately understood and fully implemented. In other words not at will or arbitrarily implemented so I can say is Hong

Kong is still a valuable asset to to China. That is impossible is wonderful Gateway between the mainland of China as well as the rest of well, it is still a wonderful Financial Center for a lot of Chinese Enterprises to go out half of the companies listed on the stock exchange on Mainland companies accounting for 70% of the market capitalization. We are providing funds offshore Renminbi and a lot of other things which will contribute to the continuous opening up and reform of the Chinese economy. So don't don't don't take for granted

the value of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. You've alluded in some of your comments to the idea that they might be some outside forces that are in involved in organizing a supporting the projects in Hong Kong as you know, no independent reporting suggests that the United States or Great Britain is in any way involved in this do you want to clarify what you meant by that? Well, well, I can only say that so those of all I never saw 12 points finger at 10 a.m. Outside parties that they will a party to what we have seen in

Hong Kong but the fox say I'll telling from the day we started as exercise to contemplate. Does Bill Nye have been a lot of interest from America from politicians. Officials and and so on. I have seen the many locations of my legislators Coming to America to flip folder intervention into Hong Kong fast. I have seen that many young people who have foreign governments to sanction. The Hong Kong has the government officials and that doesn't mean the government has done that anyone can petition. That's why I'm not with you.

Something that should be quite domestic in Hong Kong has attracted a lot of external attention and association with the protesters and apatis will have been arranging all these activities. Finally. If you had let me ask if you could talk to the protesters if they were listening to right now. What is it you want to say to them? Treasure Hong Kong we can sit down and talk, but please treasure Hong Kong. Don't destroy Hong Kong. Do you think that Hong Kong can be preserved Beyond 2047 the point at which one country two systems

expires. I have nothing. I have no difficulty with a peaceful protesters as I mentioned. What I said about don't destroy on call is really the violent protests and I'm sure we all shocked by the degree of others that we have seen 47 the people refer to this as the D-Day of the deadline that need not be sold because in the basic know it don't even refers to 50 years on changes cause a couple of sisters new Aldi in the way of living in Hong Kong. So my proposition

is if one country two systems works well to the satisfaction of the central authorities and the Hong Kong people meeting the leading wishes in the basic law, which is Hong Kong is an Inseparable part of the People's Republic. China then you have to ask. Why should we change it? So with that, I hope that it will go on well. Forever Kari lamp

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