No more tilts at the top for Peter Woo
Tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching yesterday ruled himself out of future chief executive elections, and said he would back a bid for re-election by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2007.
Mr Woo, once tipped as a potential contender for the top job, said the reasons he took part in the first chief executive election in 1996 no longer existed as the uncertainties surrounding the handover had disappeared in the past eight years.
The Wheelock chairman said: 'I will not stand in any chief executive elections in future. I have been consistent [on the issue] over the past eight years.'
It was Mr Woo's most explicit public statement on whether he would make a political comeback and join the race to be Hong Kong's next leader.
His comments came a week after Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun quoted the tycoon as saying he had no intention of running in 2007. Nevertheless, there was still speculation that he was preparing to run and was seeking public relations advice.
Speaking after chairing his company's annual general meeting, Mr Woo said he would support Mr Tsang seeking re-election as chief executive in two years' time.
'As I support Donald's bid for the 2007 election, there is no point for me to join the race,' said Mr Woo, who lost to Tung Chee-hwa in the first chief executive election in 1996.
Mr Woo mounted a western-style campaign in that year to appeal to the public even though only 400 members of the Election Committee were eligible to vote.
'The handover was a unique event, which presented a big opportunity for us,' Mr Woo said. 'Back in 1996, Hong Kong people were looking forward to a smooth transition. It was a rare opportunity to contribute ... in the process.'
He said his participation in 1996 had enabled the public, who had no right to vote, to know more about the candidates' platforms.
Mr Woo said there had been fears and uncertainties surrounding the mainland's resumption of sovereignty in Hong Kong since the early 1980s. 'Now many issues have been resolved and the people of Hong Kong have got their answers,' he said.
Asked if he would change his mind or encourage other people to run to bring about a contested poll, Mr Woo said: 'We have to understand that Hong Kong is only a special administrative region, not an independent political entity. Our ultimate goal is to maintain the city's prosperity and stability.'
He said many members of the public hoped that the winner of the chief executive election was acceptable to Hong Kong people.
'Some people consider the election process crucial but I think the outcome is equally vital,' Mr Woo said.
Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, a political-science professor at City University, said Mr Tsang was obviously Beijing's favoured candidate for the 2007 election.
'The views of the central government are the decisive factor when many elites in the business sector and the establishment consider whether to run for the top job,' he said.