Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said in an interview Saturday that she has no bank account and relies upon “piles of cash” for her finances because of U.S. sanctions against the city.
Lam told the Hong Kong International Business Channel that she had “no banking services made available to her” and mused — perhaps facetiously — that it was a unique distinction to be in such a position.
“I’m using cash every day,” Lam said. She added: “I have piles of cash at home. The government is paying me cash for my salary, because I don’t have a bank account. I don’t want to sort of deter people from serving in a public position, because it’s very honorable in this set of circumstances to be so unjustifiably sanctioned by the U.S. government. It’s an honor.”
The U.S. sanctioned Lam and other senior members of Hong Kong’s local government because of a controversial national security law passed in June.
The national security law superseded local laws of Hong Kong, which is a semi-autonomous city technically beholden to mainland China but with its own government and constitution. Beijing has used the law to crack down on pro-democracy protesters who have been a regular presence in Hong Kong’s streets since last year.
“The People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong-based officials continue to dismantle the promised autonomy and freedoms of Hong Kong through politically motivated arrests,” and the sanctions were designed to rectify this, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued earlier this month.
Lam’s popularity plummeted after her appointment as chief executive in 2017 largely because of her mishandling of Hong Kong’s protest movement. She called the sanctions inconvenient in August but added that her administration was honored to uphold the national security law.
Even without a bank account, Lam still receives an annual salary of about HK$5.21 million — more than $672,000 — which is more than President Donald Trump’s salary of about $400,000. That makes her one of the highest-paid leaders in the world.
Her statements about cash earned little sympathy from Hong Kong Twitter users.
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