Henry Tang says Antony Leung 'qualified' to run for chief executive
A second former minister has endorsed Antony Leung Kam-chung as a chief executive candidate in 2017.
Henry Tang Ying-yen, a loser in last year's chief executive race, said Leung, a former financial secretary, was qualified for the position.
Some political observers have suggested Leung could throw his hat in the ring for what is expected to be the first election of a chief executive by universal suffrage.
Leung - who is 62 next month and is married to mainland diving star Fu Mingxia - has scoffed at the suggestion he might stand for the top job. Still, he has begun to gain support from the Beijing loyalist camp. Tang is arguably the most influential member of that camp to voice his opinion.
"Antony has very long experience and is a capable person in terms of both the financial industry and his years in the Executive Council," Tang said yesterday.
"If he is interested, I will encourage him."
Tang, who was chief secretary before joining the campaign trail and ultimately losing to Leung Chun-ying, added: "I would encourage everyone who is qualified and interested in serving the people to come out and present themselves to the people, and let the people choose."
Tang succeeded Antony Leung as financial secretary in 2003 after the "Lexusgate" affair - Leung's purchase of a luxury car shortly before he sharply raised the first-registration tax on newly purchased vehicles. He resigned in the wake of the controversy.
Asked to comment on the scandal, Tang said: "Mistakes are part of everyone's life."
Tang spoke hours before the chief executive set off for a duty visit in Beijing - and a day after Frederick Ma Si-hang, who headed the commerce bureau from 2007 to 2008, said Antony Leung "stands a chance" of winning if he contests the poll. Leung could not be reached for comment.
In Beijing Leung Chun-ying will meet Premier Li Keqiang today and President Xi Jinping tomorrow to brief them on Hong Kong's social, economic and political development.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit, recently said he understood Beijing would like to "standardise" chief executive duty visits. Asked whether Lau's remark suggested Beijing wanted more control, the chief executive said: "It is always good to standardise [something]. It can help the SAR government to … get more support from [Beijing] to push forward our development."
Meanwhile, the New People's Party of Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee will launch a study group on electoral reform tomorrow, the latest pro-establishment party to do so.
Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam in Beijing