Hong Kong ministers stay tight-lipped over leadership race

Development Minister Paul Chan Mo-po thanks Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for support

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2016, 12:21am

Hong Kong ministers largely kept their heads down yesterday, a day after two top officials tipped to run in the chief executive election next year pulled no punches in attacking each other.

The only exception was Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po, who yesterday thanked Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for his support over the past few years, but did not acknowledge his immediate boss, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun, a key supporter of Tsang, warned Hong Kong could “see at least a million protesters on the 20th anniversary of the handover should Leung get re-elected”.

Tien also criticised the Chief Executive for allegedly inviting the liaison office to intervene in local politics, damaging “one country, two systems” from within.

Retired judge pulls no punches as he launches bid for Hong Kong’s top job

Analysts expected more leaders to take sides as the race for the city’s top job heats up.

On Thursday, Leung unleashed a thinly-veiled attack on Tsang, suggesting cabinet members should be “responsible” and focus on the upcoming policy address rather than thinking about joining the city’s leadership race.

I owe much gratitude to the Chief Executive for the support of the Development Bureau and other departments.
Paul Chan Mo-po

On Friday, Tsang hit back, saying officials must also be responsible for the city’s long-term interest.

Only retired senior judge Woo Kwok-hing has declared his candidacy, while executive and legislative councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she was “interested”.

Chan, the development minister, is the first minister to hint at who he would back in the leadership race.

“I owe much gratitude to the Chief Executive for the support of the Development Bureau and other departments,” he said, stopping short of supporting Leung’s bid for another term.

As a lawmaker four years ago, Chan was the only one in the Legislative Council to nominate Leung, who was then less popular than rival Henry Tang Ying-yen.

Other cabinet ministers, including Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man, refused to take sides yesterday.

Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said he would support whoever contributed to the city.

Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member Chan Wing-kee called Tsang a “good” person, Woo an “upright” man, and Leung someone he had known a long time.