Hong Kong leader praises Carrie Lam but silent on John Tsang as chief executive race heats up
Day after Beijing approves resignations of his two former principal officers, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also commends work of their successors
Hong Kong’s top official has heaped praised on chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and two of his elevated ministers for their achievements, but refrained from giving a similar pat on the back to John Tsang Chun-wah, Lam’s expected rival in the city’s leadership race.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s comments came a day after Lam announced her bid to contest the chief executive election on March 26 with a promise to bring “good governance” to Hong Kong. On Monday, Beijing accepted Lam’s resignation as chief secretary and simultaneously approved Tsang’s resignation as financial secretary, appointing development chief Paul Chan Mo-po to succeed him. Welfare chief Matthew Cheung Kin-chung was named to succeed Lam as the city’s No 2 official.
Watch: Carrie Lam announces bid to lead Hong Kong
Before the Executive Council’s weekly meeting on Tuesday, Leung was asked if he expected his successor to continue his policies.
“The difference between candidates is not in how they understand social demands because that is quite clear,” he said. “According to our opinion polls over the last four years, 70 per cent of residents consistently identify land and housing as our top priority. I think the difference between candidates is in whether they are accountable, serious and diligent about getting things done.”
The chief executive went on to compliment Lam for possessing these attributes, responding to a question on whether he would support Lam, seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate for the top job.
He described her as “an accountable and capable minister” who “has been willing to tackle problems that had accumulated in the city for a long time”.
Leung similarly doled out praise for the former welfare minister.
“Cheung had achievements in alleviating poverty, caring for the elderly and helping the weak,” he said. “We put forward considerable effort, and apart from financial support, it is important for a bureau chief to be able to advance policies.”
Leung then commented on Chan, saying the challenges the former development chief faced could be “larger” than Cheung’s were over the last four years.
“He has had achievements in increasing land supply amid different voices, opposition and interests,” the chief executive said of Chan. “Because of what he has done the last few years, we estimate that more than 90,000 private housing units will be completed in the next three to four years. This is a 40-per cent increase compared with the situation before we took office.”
Leung was asked to comment on Tsang, but he ignored the question and exited the briefing.
Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, whom Leung appointed in 2012, echoed the chief executive’s praise for Lam.
“She is accountable and capable,” he said. “I admire her.” But Ko declined to say whether he wanted to retain his position for five more years after the current administration’s term expires on June 30.