Hong Kong would benefit if four worthy chief executive candidates faced off in final contest

Ho Lok Sang says having multiple candidates confront each other would spark lively and welcome policy debates about the city’s future, and hopes the Election Committee will act to ensure a diverse field

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 8:30pm

Election day for Hong Kong’s chief executive is now barely a month away, and nominations will close on March 1.

Most eyes are now focused on the two front runners, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah. But Hong Kong will benefit if two of the other contenders, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, are also admitted into the race with sufficient nominations.

As for Leung Kwok-hung, neither he nor his supporters are really interested in a serious policy debate on any of the burning issues in the city. But having Woo and Ip join the race will enrich the policy debate for the future of Hong Kong. This is especially true of Ip, who set up the Savantas Policy Institute in 2006, and has a long history in government.

Chief executive election: biographies of the four candidates bidding to lead Hong Kong

All four are truly admirable personalities. Tsang, Lam, and Ip trained as administrative officers, and have acquired impressive versatility. Woo, a former Court of Appeal vice-president, was not very well known beyond the fact that he had headed several independent inquiries and served as chair of the Electoral Affairs Commission and as commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance. Woo comes across as fair and sincere. The fact that he is not a politician does not diminish his credentials, given that politicians are often seen as self-serving. In quitting their posts, Tsang and Lam demonstrated great commitment. Ip’s commitment and sacrifice are equally, if not more, impressive.

Regina Ip revives divisive issues, including Article 23, as she enters Hong Kong chief executive race

She showcased accountability by stepping down as secretary for security in 2003, after failing to implement the National Security Bill under Article 23. Ip is also the only contender with experience of direct elections. She has not only won and kept her own Legislative Council seat but campaigned successfully to win three Legco seats for her party in September.

Watch: Regina Ip on her leadership bid
Someone without much of a chance can still play a useful role in challenging policy proposals

I don’t believe four contenders would be too many. It would be good for Hong Kong, to avoid contenders giving in too much to interest groups to get their votes. Someone without much of a chance can still play a useful role in challenging policy proposals that do not serve the interests of Hong Kong people as a whole. If their policy proposals are so good that Election Committee members are convinced and he or she wins against the odds, that’s even better.

There is no reason to give a contender more nominating votes than necessary to get into the race. Let’s hope committee members take a good look at each of their policy platforms and work together to ensure all worthy candidates enter the race. Having four candidates engage in a lively policy debate would be very educational for the public.

Ho Lok Sang is dean of business at Chu Hai College of Higher Education