She's a democrat Beijing can trust, say aides
When she launched her election campaign, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was bound to face questions about provocative remarks she made as security chief while pushing the Article 23 national security legislation, and she chose to tackle the issue head on - with an apology.
Seeking to defuse lingering public anger over the controversy, Mrs Ip admitted she had made mistakes.
People working for her campaign said the former security chief really was reinventing herself as someone who advocates universal suffrage while enjoying the trust of the central government.
At yesterday's press conference, she also set out to present herself as an independent whose hand was strengthened in the fight for universal suffrage by her acceptability to Hong Kong people, fellow legislators and the central government.
Like her rival, fellow former senior civil servant Anson Chan Fang On-sang, she has been criticised for becoming a 'sudden democrat', and like Mrs Chan she rejected that notion. Mrs Ip said she was not an opportunist, and had gone out and listened to the public since returning from the United States last year.
Whatever the result of the by-election on December 2, Mrs Ip said, she would run for election to the Legislative Council next year. Mrs Chan has been non-committal on this point.
One member of Mrs Ip's campaign team, Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman, drew a distinction between her and Mrs Chan in their relations with Beijing. 'Regina is less confrontational than Anson. Anson said she wanted to be a bridge between Hong Kong and China, but I think Regina is a longer and a stronger bridge,' he said.
A source close to Beijing said Mrs Chan wanted to forge communication with the central government but there could be no trust between her and the central government since she had decided to represent the pan-democratic camp in the by-election.
Choi Ping-lun, deputy manager of Mrs Ip's election office and formerly an assistant director of immigration, said voters would take into account which candidate would fight for universal suffrage effectively with the trust of the central government.
Other campaign workers acknowledged they might have some work to do to convince voters it was an advantage for a candidate to be backed by Beijing.