Despite this, she says she has come to understand that it would be unconstitutional for her to be subject to local legislation applied to public officers on matters involving integrity.
When she ran for CE in 2017, Lam made an election pledge to amend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance – which prohibits public officers from soliciting or accepting advantages – to include the chief executive as well.
But she now says she will not make the legal changes after all, because it would undermine the chief executive’s constitutional status and pose a national security risk.
Speaking before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam reassured the public that the CE would still be held accountable under other laws.
“If you look through the Basic Law, the chief executive is discharging a lot of responsibilities on behalf of the central government. So, she is sort of above the executive, the legislature and the judiciary,” she said.
“I’m not saying that the chief executive under that sort of constitutional role should be above the law, of course not. If the chief executive commits offences under existing ordinances, especially criminal acts, he or she will be held accountable and face the legal consequences,” she added.
“But on an issue which deals with the sort of the integrity of the chief executive, I think it will be against the constitutional position to subject him or her to the local legislation which is supposed to be applied to the other public offices.”
Lam also said she came to realise after the social unrest of 2019 that amending bribery laws to cover the CE would undermine national security.
“Prior to the riots and all this anti-government, anti-China acts in Hong Kong, I think very few people within and outside the government would realise that Hong Kong was facing such national security risks,” she told reporters.
“We would not appreciate it was so very important to make sure that Hong Kong has to be governed by people who are patriotic, who are accountable to the central government in order to keep our country safe,” Lam added.
“Having learned this very deeply, and as far as myself was concerned, very painfully, I have to stand very firm on important principles of constitution. So this is one of those issues that I have to take a very firm stance.”