Ip salvo on top job 'a response to public wishes'
Gary Cheung and Fanny W. Y. Fung
A growing public desire to see candidates besides Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying vying to become the next chief executive has encouraged others like Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee to fancy their chances, observers say.
Ip, the former security minister who is now a legislator and chairwoman of New People's Party, fired her salvo on Tuesday against two other hotly tipped candidates - Tang and Leung. Tang is chief secretary and Leung the convenor of the Executive Council.
Ip has yet to declare her intention to run for the top job, but she has dropped hints about doing so on two occasions. On one of them, in an interview with the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, she said Tang and Leung lacked the 'leadership qualities, competence and stamina' for the chief executive's job.
Pan-democratic lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said he believed that the lack of a strong, obvious candidate would encourage Ip and others to challenge for the job.
'Ip is seizing this opportunity. Her criticism of the two men amounts to an election strategy to tell people that she can be alternative,' he said. 'Before a clear frontrunner is identified, I believe more aspirants will emerge and attack potential candidates.'
Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, agreed that there was a growing sentiment among 'educated people' that neither Tang nor Leung were ideal candidates.
'As Beijing has yet to state its position on the chief executive race, it is natural that some people interested in the job are eager to enter the fray,' he said.
Ma said Ip's assessment of Tang was not far off the mark as Tang had yet to prove his decisiveness and commitment since becoming chief secretary in 2007. Ma said Leung was an unknown quality as he had not taken up any post within the government before.
However, Ma said Ip's move lacked subtlety. 'It sounds unwise and indiscreet for Ip to make such blunt remarks. She should have focused on how she is better than the two men.'
A politician close to Tang criticised Ip for resorting to a 'negative strategy' because she was lagging behind others in the race. 'That is why she's trying to attack and discredit others who are leading the race,' the politician said.
Meanwhile, Ip Kwok-him, a lawmaker from the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Tang and Leung had shown greater determination for the job than Ip. He said both had kept in regular contact with the DAB - the largest political party in Hong Kong - but he felt that Ip had not tried to woo the DAB for support.
Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, convenor of Economic Synergy, said he disagreed with Ip's remarks that Tang and Leung lacked leadership qualities.
'I don't believe Ip's comments represent the mainstream opinion,' said Lam, who is also a legislator who represents the General Chamber of Commerce.
Regina Ip declined to comment further yesterday.