«Tough fighter» was Carrie Lam’s nickname earlier in her career, based on her ability to get the job done. That steely reputation helped her snag Hong Kong’s top post as chief executive in 2017. But by then, Lam had a less flattering nickname, stemming from the 777 votes she won from the 1,194 mostly pro-Beijing business and political elites on the Election Committee who selected her. She was dubbed “Seven”—which in the local Cantonese slang could be an expletive meaning an impotent person.
Today even worse names —“traitor,” for one—are being hurled at Lam. Critics say the Hong Kong police used excessive force on June 12 by unleashing rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray against mostly young demonstrators protesting a controversial bill backed by Lam and her Beijing patrons that would allow extradition to mainland China. With her approval ratings plummeting, Lam was asked by reporters if she’d “sold out” to Beijing. She fought back tears and said: “How could I do that? I grew up here with everyone else in the city.”