HK needs a leader who can bridge divides at home and with the central government

As John Tsang enters the race for chief executive, it’s time for all candidates to roll out solid policies and show what they can do for the city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 12:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 12:42am

The chief executive race is in full swing after John Tsang Chun-wah confirmed his widely expected election bid on Thursday. As far as a public relations strategy is concerned, the former finance chief has done a better job. But there is more to an election than just image and branding. He admitted that he had yet to secure a single vote, probably because of the perception that he may not be Beijing’s choice. He needs to roll out solid policies and work harder to get enough nominations to become a candidate.

Ideally, the new chief executive should be able to heal the deepening political divide in our city. Whether the aspirants possess such qualities will be closely examined by Beijing and the people of Hong Kong. So far four hopefuls have come forward, with Tsang and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor being seen as the frontrunners. But like the other two candidates, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Woo Kwok-hing, Lam and Tsang have their weaknesses. Not only should they recognise them, more importantly they should try to overcome them.

Tsang would be not drawn on what he has achieved for the city. But he described himself as a good listener. He rightly acknowledged the housing problems facing the city and endorsed efforts by current chief executive Leung Chun-ying on this front. The candidates have to articulate comprehensive platforms so that Beijing and the local public can judge whether they are worthy of support.

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The pan-democrats are also playing a more important role in the electoral process this time. There has been a suggestion that they could become kingmaker with their 300-odd votes in the 1,194 member Election Committee that will choose the new leader. Given the prevailing political situation, Beijing may be wary of whoever gets the full endorsement of the pan-democrats, not to mention of the possible political deals and trade-offs during the process. Tsang and others have to think carefully how far to go in soliciting support from the pan-democrat camp.

That said, it is in the interests of the city and Beijing to have a chief executive who can bridge the political divide. As long as sovereignty and national security are not compromised, the leader should reach out to different sectors. Constitutionally, the chief executive is accountable to the central government as well as the local public. That does not necessarily mean he or she will be torn between two masters. We share the same interest in building a better Hong Kong and China.

Our leader is required to find the common ground and maintain a cordial relationship between the two.