Regina Ip all but confirms her run for Hong Kong chief executive
Ex-security minister says she will announce her bid ‘in due course’ after being probed at forum
Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee all but confirmed her intention on Monday to stand for chief executive, saying she would announce her candidacy “in due course”, but she refused to confirm reports about resigning from the Executive Council in two weeks to run for the city’s top job.
Another hotly-tipped candidate, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, remained tight-lipped about his intentions during a business trip to Beijing on Monday for talks with officials.
Tsang’s colleague, government No 2 Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, declared yet again that she had no more political ambitions, and appeared to choke with emotion when speaking of her “vision” for Hong Kong.
At a forum on Monday, former security minister Ip was caught off guard by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing when he asked if she would quit Leung Chun-ying’s cabinet. Tsang said he had heard that Ip would do so on December 14. A notice was issued to members of her New People’s Party earlier informing them of an extraordinary general meeting that day.
“Don’t poke fun at me and put me in a difficult position,” the party chairwoman replied to Tsang.
She later told the media she would make an announcement “in due course”. Asked what she was waiting for, Ip said “there are many aspects of work to do with the election”.
Ip said she had held a “firm” determination to serve Hong Kong throughout the years.
She said she understood Beijing had two considerations in mind for the right candidate: whether he or she would be able to govern Hong Kong effectively in the next five years, and whether their leadership would prompt many to take to the streets.
In another sign that Ip was preparing to go for the top job, she informed the South China Morning Post on Monday that she would have to stop writing her monthly column “for a while” after December 11.
A source close to Ip told the Post “preparation is in progress” regarding her campaign and that Ip’s manifesto was almost ready as she could use her party’s regularly updated platform.
WATCH: Regina Ip tearfully regrets Hong Kong reform vote misstep
At the same forum, the chief secretary gave a speech outlining her vision for Hong Kong, including upholding judicial independence and alleviating poverty.
But Lam described her speech as “parting words” rather than campaign talk.
“I understand there have been worrying, even heart-breaking and frustrating situations in Hong Kong in the past few years,” Lam said, appearing to fight back tears. “I believe if people still love the city, the vision can still come true.”
Michael Tien Puk-sun, a lawmaker and vice-chairman of the New People’s Party, said he understood John Tsang had been given the green light from Beijing in October but he became hesitant after he could not get a clear message from the capital regarding his resignation to pave the way for contesting the top job.
“But Beijing recently gave the nod to his plan to tender his resignation,” Tien said.
He said the central government had learned a lesson from the split within the pro-establishment camp in the 2012 chief executive election, when it was widely believed that Henry Tang Ying-yen had Beijing’s full blessing.
“In this election, Beijing will choose not to openly encourage or state a preference for any aspirant in the early stages to leave itself the biggest room for manoeuvre,” Tien said.
In the capital on Monday, Tsang did not reply to media questions on whether he had indeed been given the go-ahead to run after a 40-minute meeting with Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Tsang, together with financial services chief Chan Ka-keung and Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam, was greeted by Wang as they arrived.
Phoenix Kwong is reporting from Beijing