Ip says sorry for Article 23 tactics
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee apologised to the public yesterday for 'personally' making mistakes in her promotion of the controversial Article 23 Security Bill - but insisted she had just been doing her job - as she formally announced her intention to contest the Hong Kong Island by-election on December 2.
Saying she was not an opportunist and harboured 'no frustration and anger' over criticism of her role as security chief, she also presented herself as a candidate whose good relations with Beijing would help her promote democratisation.
Mrs Ip, who only last year said she had nothing to apologise for over the now-shelved Article 23 bill, said yesterday she was now 'ashamed' and wanted to apologise to people who were upset by her hard-line remarks.
Asked why the public would vote for a person who was behind the unpopular bill so soon after 500,000 protesters took to the streets in 2003 opposing it, Mrs Ip said: 'I am aware that I personally made mistakes in promoting that bill. I made remarks which might have been unnecessarily provocative, which gave rise to misunderstanding or were hurtful for people who dislike Article 23.
'I wish to tender my sincere apologies to those people who were disturbed by my remarks. I am very much different now than a few years ago,' she said. But she stressed the decision to press ahead with the law had been made by the then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and she had only been doing her job.
Her apology was questioned by pan-democrats, who accused her of making the remarks to attract votes. Legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Civic Party, doubted the motive behind the apology. 'I have a feeling that she only made the apology as a vote-attracting tactic. Otherwise, why has she refused to apologise in the past?' he said.
Mrs Ip said when she launched her Savantas Policy Institute think-tank last year that there was no need to apologise.
Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Mrs Ip's expected rival in the by-election, said she welcomed her participation but added that heeding quality views from the public was key to an election campaign. 'I would welcome, and I think the entire community would welcome anybody who has a commitment, who shares the core values of the community, to run in the by-election,' Mrs Chan said.
Flanked by heavyweight supporters from major pro-government political parties, tycoons, civil servants and professionals, Mrs Ip said the by-election was an extraordinary opportunity that she could not let go.
'But in no way am I being opportunistic. I have sailed through many ups and downs in my career, but in no way am I harbouring any frustration or anger,' she said.
She said her long-awaited announcement to run was the climax of a long-standing desire to take part in a direct election, which originated during her study at Stanford University in the US two years ago following her resignation over Article 23.
While saying she supported an early introduction of universal suffrage by 2012 and no later than 2017 if Beijing agreed after a consensus was formed in Hong Kong, Mrs Ip said there should only be a gradual phasing out of functional constituencies.