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Hong Kong's polarized society mirrors 30 years of Taiwan's identity struggles

Winning over the public won't be easy for the city's new Beijing-backed leader

Dr. Syaru Shirley Lin, professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Virginia (Photo by Kenji Kawase)

HONG KONG Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will be the first female chief executive of Hong Kong, but there is no fervor like that seen last January when Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan's first female president. Lam not only lacks a mandate due to the territory's undemocratic electoral system and her low popularity, but she also has to govern a divided society. Syaru Shirley Lin, a scholar of both Taiwan and Hong Kong affairs, told the Nikkei Asian Review that the situation in Hong Kong is much more tense than that in Taiwan, and Lam faces a number of difficult challenges.

What are the chances of healing the rift that exists in Hong Kong society? Lam is known to be a hard-liner on welfare, the environment and political reform. But these are exactly the issues she must tackle right away. Hong Kong is facing a high income trap -- low fertility, high inequality, high housing prices and so on -- and it is the most inequitable among all advanced economies, with young people having limited housing and job opportunities. In the Umbrella Movement of 2014, Lam was the hard-line face stonewalling the students.

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