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Carrie Lam Is Sworn In as Hong Kong’s First Female Leader

Many in this territory of seven million people worry about the growing influence of mainland China on daily life and the ability of institutions like the judiciary to continue to maintain their independence. Over the past two years, Hong Kong booksellers who specialized in gossipy tales of Chinese leaders and a politically connected billionaire have ended up on the mainland, apparently after being grabbed by security officers operating outside their legal authority.

Three years ago, protesters pushing for a more direct voice in nominating and electing the chief executive occupied major roadways for nearly three months. The central government refused to back down, and pro-democracy lawmakers rejected a proposal promoted by Mrs. Lam under which the public could vote for chief executive candidates that were vetted by Beijing.

Mrs. Lam, 60, was chosen by the previous system, with a largely pro-government election committee selecting her from three candidates vetted by the central government. She trailed the front-runner in public opinion polls but won with 777 votes from the 1,194-member committee.

In her inauguration speech, Mrs. Lam said she would cultivate a “new style of governance to rebuild a harmonious society and renew the people’s trust in the government.”

Mrs. Lam will face a series of pressing issues upon taking office. Hong Kong has some of the world’s highest housing prices. The wealth gap is widening, and the elderly population has one of the highest rates of poverty in Asia. The education system leaves young people ill equipped to face increasing competition from their peers in mainland China.

In the face of China’s growing influence, young people here are increasingly likely to identify as Hong Kongers. Mrs. Lam has said she wants to ensure children learn from a young age to say they are Chinese, which has prompted concerns about efforts to add “patriotic education” to the curriculum.

Since the end of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, Hong Kong has seen increasing calls for autonomy and a small but growing independence movement. In November, voters elected two openly pro-independence lawmakers, but the central government prevented them from taking their seats after they altered their oaths of office to snub China.

Mrs. Lam has said the government will enforce the law against calls for independence, but has not explained how such acts would be illegal in Hong Kong, which has strong protections for speech.

Source: NYT > World

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