CHIEF EXECUTIVE RACE

Hong Kong big hitters sign up to lead Carrie Lam’s chief executive election campaign team

Fellow hopefuls John Tsang and Regina Ip also assemble teams

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 11:06am

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has emerged as the chief executive contender with the strongest campaign team, as her camp takes shape behind a group of political heavyweights.

Ronald Arculli and Bernard Chan will spearhead her team. Both have a long record of public service and extensive connections in the business sector.

Arculli, a solicitor and former convenor of the Executive Council, has chaired the Jockey Club and the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

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Chan, from a Thai-Chinese family which runs an investment business, is currently an executive councillor and a local deputy to the National People’s Congress. He is president of Asia Financial Holdings.

Watch: Carrie Lam declares her bid to lead Hong Kong

Arculli was recently revealed to have taken up directorship of a company, Wellink Development, on December 19, nine days after Lam said she would “reconsider” running for the top job after Leung Chun-ying announced he would not seek re-election.

Another Lam supporter, barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen – who was also adviser to Leung’s campaign in 2012 – joined Arculli as a Wellink director.

Neither would say on Thursday whether the company was for the Lam campaign.

Li is not the only one from Leung’s camp to have joined Lam’s team, the bulk of which will most likely be made up of several middle-aged core members from Li’s policy think tank 30SGroup, including directors Benson Luk and Joseph Lau Pui-wing.

Luk’s wife, Cathy, was a core member of the Leung campaign in 2012, and his former boss at PR firm A-World Consulting, Sandra Mak, is also tipped to be a core strategist in Lam’s team.

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Lau recently left Ronny Tong Ka-wah’s think tank Path of Democracy to take up the new job.

Businessman Allan Zeman, also on the 1,194-member election committee that will choose the city’s next leader in March, said he would endorse Lam and planned to meet her shortly about joining her team.

Political analyst Dr Chung Kim-wah, of Polytechnic University, said: “If Lam’s election team is too crowded with Leung fans, the public impression will be that things would possibly not look much different after she becomes the chief executive. I am not sure if it is good or bad for her campaign, given Leung’s unpopularity.”

But he said the choice of Arculli, a respected figure in both pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps, could help dilute such an impression.

Lam is expected to hold a rally to announce her chief executive bid on February 3.

Meanwhile, John Tsang Chun-wah, who is still waiting for Beijing to approve his resignation as financial secretary before he can announce his bid, has roped in former top government officials.

His campaign is said to be led by former permanent secretary for the civil service Rebecca Lai Ko Wing-yee. Former permanent secretary for economic development and labour Sandra Lee Suk-yee, Tsang’s former press secretary Patrick Wong Wing-kit and Tsang’s former political assistant Julian Law Wing-chung are also helping.

Another candidate, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, has also got a retired government official – former deputy economic minister Miranda Chiu – as her campaign manager, and former deputy director of immigration Chow Kwok-chuen as Chiu’s deputy.

Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who was the first candidate to announce a candidacy, has gone solo in his last two press conferences.

One person known to be on his team is Andy Ho On-tat, former information coordinator of then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.