Former Hong Kong stock exchange chairman Ronald Arculli to head Carrie Lam’s election campaign

Political experts say strategic selection will boost chief secretary’s support from business community

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 12:18am

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has picked Ronald Arculli as her campaign manager in the race for Hong Kong’s top job, the South China Morning Post has learnt.

By choosing the former stock exchange chairman, she could see an increase in support from business elites, especially given Arculli’s close connections with Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, political pundits said.

They added that the move was strategic, as it allowed Lam to fend off suggestions that her presumed arch-rival, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, was on better terms with the business circle than she was.

While Lam refused to say if she would run for the top job as she left a special Legislative Council meeting on Friday, three sources told the Post that she would be resigning next week – days before outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was set to announce his final policy address.

“She is resigning on Thursday, and Arculli will become her campaign manager,” a source familiar with the matter said. “Lam is forming her campaign office.”

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Lam did not respond to media inquiries on whether she was driven to Shenzhen to meet Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya earlier this week.

Arculli, who was at the same Legco meeting attended by Lam as vice-chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District authority board, also did not respond to media inquiries.

“Arculli is a respected figure in the pro-establishment camp and is not purely a Beijing loyalist,” said Ivan Choy Chi-keung, political scientist at the Chinese University. “Lam’s selection of him as campaign chief is a subtle rebuttal to [those concerned] that she does not have connections with the commercial sector,” he added.

Ma Ngok, another political scientist at the same university, also noted Arculli had good connections with property developers.

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Arculli is the chairman of the FWD group, the insurance arm of Pacific Century Group which is headed by Li Ka-shing’s son Richard Li Tzar-kai.

Barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen, who founded thinktank 30SGroup in 2003, was also confirmed to have been enlisted to be in Lam’s election office.

Lan Kwai Fong’s “godfather” Allan Zeman, responding to reports that he and executive councillor Bernard Chan would help Lam’s campaign, said: “I respect Carrie.”

He refused to make any further remarks and Chan could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Tsang was into his 26th day of waiting to start his election campaign after tendering his resignation as finance chief.

On the pan-democratic side, League of Social Democrats’ “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung told the camp in a weekly meeting yesterday that he was considering running for the chief executive position.

“If I am really running, I will seek ... citizens’ nomination or recommendation first; I won’t just ask the electors to nominate me,” Leung said.

“But it doesn’t have to be me running ... if there is a better candidate in the camp, I won’t challenge him.”

He said he was considering joining the race because all potential candidates so far support Beijing’s framework on Hong Kong political reform and a national security legislation.