Kuk warns Tang to be cautious
Having 378 votes of confidence at the nomination stage is no guarantee of support in the March 25 selection for chief executive, supporters warned Henry Tang Ying-yen yesterday.
The caution came from one of his staunchest supporters, Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the powerful rural affairs body the Heung Yee Kuk, which on Monday gave Tang all 28 of its Election Committee nominations. A candidate has to secure at least 150 nominations to be eligible.
Lau's remarks came as Tang's credibility took a battering from scandals over illegal structures and a love affair, which cost him nominations from his strongest backers on the 1,200-member committee.
'Nominations and voting are two separate matters,' the kuk chief said yesterday. 'There is still a month to go. The situation can change a lot.'
Lau, who is also a lawmaker and executive councillor, said he submitted nomination forms for Tang before the illegal structure row, but did not regret the decision.
Commenting on Tang's decision to run amid the backlash against him, Lau said: 'He is brave.'
James Tien Pei-chun - honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, which along with its allies, contributed 62 nominations for Tang - said support would be withdrawn if the former chief secretary's popularity remained low next month.
The latest popularity poll released yesterday by Chinese University surveyed 551 respondents. Tang's approval rating dropped 11 marks - out of 100 - to 33, and, for the first time, was lower than pan-democratic candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan's, who had 34. Arch rival Leung Chun-ying's score slid from 59 last month to 57 marks this month.
Tang was sanguine about the downturn. 'I knew what happened recently would deal a blow to my ratings. I accept that,' he said. 'As I have repeatedly said publicly, I will shoulder the responsibility on my own.'
Asked if his insistence on standing went against the public's will, Tang said: 'I hope when selecting their chief executive, people consider whether [a candidate] is committed to serving the public, as well as if and how he or she served people in the past. Second, they should compare the candidates' visions for ruling Hong Kong.'
Of the 378 valid nominations, (one was ruled invalid) the former chief secretary surprisingly lost votes from some of the subsectors where he used to have the greatest support.
The loss was the most severe in the accounting subsector where he only got one nomination out of 15.
Subsector representative Eric Li Ka-cheung, a former legislator, said the subsector needed more time to discuss who to nominate for the chief executive election. He emphasised that the recent scandals had no bearing on their decisions.
'I don't rule out the possibility that some of us may nominate Leung Chun-ying or other chief executive hopefuls,' Li said.
In the catering subsector, Tang got three fewer nominations than expected, securing only 14. Core supporter Thomas Woo Chu admitted some had taken a step back. 'Three of them said they wanted to wait for the recent chaotic situation to settle down before making the choice,' Woo said. Cafe de Coral chairman Michael Chan Yue-kwong was among the three pulling out.
Other prominent supporters failing to back Tang included singer Alan Tam Wing-lun in the performing arts subsector, and Jonathan Choi Koon-shum, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, in the commercial (second) subsector.
Tang had full backing from the industrial (first) and textile and garment subsectors, but no nominations from the education, labour and Catholic sectors, or the leftist Chinese Enterprises Association.
Nominated by many tycoons and major property developers, he rejected suggestions that collusion between the government and businesses could arise should he be elected. He said his nominators came from 'all sectors and all walks of life'.
Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Hospital Authority, and a Tang supporter, called on the public to consider Tang's manifesto and management skills.
Leung said he expected to register as a candidate in the next few days, while Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who announced her bid on Monday night, declined to disclose the number of nominations she had so far secured.