Could Hong Kong’s political moderates now find a new voice?

Cheung Chor-yung says with Carrie Lam facing the immense task of having to win over both Beijing and the Hong Kong public, her defeated rival John Tsang could play a key part in fixing the political divide

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 11:21pm

Is Hong Kong capable of producing a political leadership that has the confidence of both Beijing and the Hong Kong people? Unless and until we can give an affirmative answer to this question, the political tension in Hong Kong will not go away.

Now that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has won the small-circle election in the Election Committee to become the next chief executive, what should she do in order to help produce such a political leadership?

We can expect that the Lam administration will refrain from tackling divisive issues like democratic reform and Article 23 national security legislation. Lam probably will push ahead her social/livelihood polices to help address the problems of housing, welfare, education and social mobility, hoping to improve ordinary citizens’ well-being.

This may go some way to making Hong Kong a less polarised city. But the more challenging consideration is whether she will invite John Tsang Chun-wah – the candidate supported by most moderates and who defeated her by a large margin in most opinion polls during the election campaign – to join her administration.

This would be a bold move for both of them, since this may alienate some of their supporters and one may be sceptical if such a move would win the blessing of Beijing. But if Tsang is given a seat in the Executive Council by Lam, it may create better conditions for the new government to work with the moderates both in the pro-establishment and the democratic camps in the future.

The success of his electoral campaign has alarmed many in the opposition

However, after having run the most successful political campaign in Hong Kong since the last governor, Chris Patten, Tsang and his supporters may choose to form his own political group outside the government in order to give an independent voice to political moderates. If Tsang chooses to adopt this approach, it would be most interesting for the following reasons.

First, the attempt may have the potential of producing a strong push to break down the now dysfunctional political divide between the establishment camp and the opposition in Hong Kong. If successful, this would amount to a new political realignment by clearly differentiating the radicals, the moderates and the establishment conservatives in the local political spectrum. Such a realignment might bring new and positive impetus to Hong Kong.

Second, if such an approach proved to be sustainable, and if it could further convince Beijing that it posed no threat to national security and so on, then Hong Kong would have a better chance of giving a positive answer to the question I posed above.

Whether Tsang will opt for such an approach I do not know. But the success of his electoral campaign has alarmed many in the opposition. They ask why this establishment figure has managed to mobilise so much popular support, yet radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung could not get enough unofficial civil nominations to challenge him during the campaign.

I think they have a point. How we seize this may greatly impact on the future of “one country, two systems” in the years to come.

Dr Cheung Chor-yung is a senior teaching fellow in City University’s Department of Public Policy