Henry Tang

Legco chief bides his time on race

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing yesterday appeared to take a step back from the race for chief executive, just two days after his dramatic announcement that he was considering running.

Tsang cited a South China Morning Post poll which found he was the least popular candidate to replace scandal-hit front runner Henry Tang Ying-yen in the March 25 poll as one factor that might keep him out of the race. Tsang also says he will struggle to prepare a full policy platform in the 10 days before nominations close.

His comments came despite the support of his party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, whose chairman Tam Yiu-chung yesterday promised Tsang his backing if he chose to run.

The poll, widely quoted by other media yesterday, found that only 5.9 per cent of the 516 people questioned by the University of Hong Kong wanted to see Tsang replace Tang, behind Beijing loyalist Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who received 24.1 and 21.1 per cent of support respectively. Ip says she may join the race, while Fan, who ruled herself out of the running last year, has remained silent since the row over an illegal basement under a Kowloon Tong house owned by the Tang family erupted last week.

'Anyone wanting to stand for election should, first and foremost, think highly on public support,' Tsang said. '[The low support] is one of my considerations. At this moment, I do not have a complete manifesto,' he said. Asked if he had a deadline for a decision, Tsang said only that he would decide before the end of the nomination period.

He said on Friday he was seriously considering running after a 'dramatic turn' in the race, thought to be the revelations over Tang's basement, the subject of an investigation by the Buildings Department.

A former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, a forerunner of the DAB, Tsang said his party was a 'readily available election machine'. He would not, however, ask DAB members who nominated Tang or rival Leung Chun-ying to switch their nomination to him for 'integrity' reasons.

Veteran Beijing loyalist Ng Hon-mun, who has close ties to Tsang, believes Tsang is unlikely to run given the short timescale.

China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Tsang's behaviour was a smokescreen for Beijing to analyse its next move. Most of the 1,200-strong Election Committee is made up of Beijing loyalists. 'If Tang can withstand public pressure Tsang would not need to join the race,' Lau said. 'If Tang cannot recover from the damage, Beijing needs to touch base with the big business players on whether they can accept [former Executive Council convenor] Leung. If both options fail, Tsang can emerge as the acceptable choice.'

The poll found more than 50 per cent of respondents believed Tang should withdraw from the race. Tang's office yesterday rejected this. The only candidate officially nominated for the race so far is Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan.

Twenty-eight pan-democratic members of the Election Committee's social welfare subsector issued a joint statement yesterday urging Tang to quit immediately. They said they did not believe his apology over the property scandal was sincere.

2,250

The size, in square feet, of the basement found to have been added illegally at Henry Tang's home in Kowloon Tong