Beijing wanted me to run for Legco presidency, Hong Kong chief executive candidate Regina Ip reveals

But lawmaker says she has not been discouraged from entering race for city’s top job

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 December, 2016, 9:30am

Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee revealed that she was encouraged by Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong to run for the Legislative Council’s presidency but said this did not mean she had been discouraged from running in the city’s leadership race in March.

Ip, lawmaker and chairwoman of the pro-establishment New People’s Party, made the revelation in an interview with the Chinese-language daily Ming Pao.

Asked if she had received Beijing’s blessing before announcing her bid on December 15, Ip disclosed that in a meeting with Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, he “only told me to be the Legco president. He did not say, ‘you should not run’ [for the chief executive]”.

Regina Ip: ‘I have the edge over rivals to lead Hong Kong’

Ip did not say when the meeting took place, but she has previously admitted visiting the liaison office on September 5, the day after the Legco elections. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen was elected Legco president in October.

Ip dismissed the suggestion that Zhang was implying Beijing wanted her to stay in Legco rather than seeking to become Hong Kong’s first woman leader.

“He just thinks I’m capable of becoming the Legco president,” Ip said. “But I don’t like handling procedural matters.”

The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, stipulates that no mainland Chinese authority may interfere in affairs that Hong Kong administers on its own, but Beijing’s liaison office has repeatedly been criticised by the pan-democratic camp for meddling in such matters.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Ip’s revelation further strengthened people’s impression that “the liaison office has been interfering with the Legco’s polls”.

In September, Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun caused a stir by claiming the liaison office had told him to discourage party colleague Ken Chow Wing-kan from running in the Legco elections.

Ip and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing are the only candidates who have announced they will run to succeed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who will not seek another term. Their potential rivals include the city’s No 2 and 3 officials, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, whose resignation has yet to be approved by Beijing.

Lam flew to Beijing on Wednesday for official meetings on cultural exchanges, but she said she would not be meeting Beijing officials to discuss the leadership race.

Meanwhile, Eddy Li Sau-hung, president of one of the city’s biggest business bodies, the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, said local businesses wanted the new government to continue with some of Leung’s policies.

“We will be very disappointed if some policies from the current administration are abolished or delayed [under the new chief executive]” he said.

Li, who nominated Leung four years ago, is one of the association’s 18 representatives on the 1,194-strong Election Committee that will pick the city’s next leader on March 26.

Additional reporting by Nikki Sun