CY Leung rules out ‘Putin-style’ return, welcomes more contenders for Hong Kong leadership race

City’s top official says the electoral system needs competition in the long run, including from the pan-democratic camp

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2017, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 1:29am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has dismissed suggestions by a prominent pro-Beijing figure that there are too many contenders in the race to be his successor, adding it is “interesting” that no pan-democrat has come forward to contest the top post.

Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman and former judicial secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie claimed last week that it was “impossible” to have four candidates in the March election, and urged aspirants to consider their chances before entering the ring.

Former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah declared his interest to run on Thursday, three days after former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced her bid.

The pair are joined by lawmaker and former minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

On a radio programme yesterday, Leung said: “I do believe that we should have competition ... We haven’t seen any candidate from the other side.

“If there’s a candidate from the other camp, making it five or even six, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said, adding that he did not think it was beneficial for the long-term development of Hong Kong’s electoral system if all candidates were from the same bloc, regardless of how many.

Leung, who will step down later this year, also said he had no plans for another shot at the top office, ruling out a “Vladimir Putin-style” comeback. The Russian leader left the president’s office in 2008 but was re-elected in 2012. He also served two separate stints as prime minister.

Leung, when asked earlier if he would run again in 2022, dodged the question by saying he would continue contributing to Hong Kong and the country “if there was a use” for him.

“You didn’t rule it out on Wednesday – I’ll give you another chance now. Are there no circumstances under which you will consider standing for chief executive again?” the radio host asked.

“I haven’t considered how I should spend my time after July 1 this year – I have no plan at all,” Leung responded. “I’ll probably be the same CY Leung, meaning helping in whatever way I can, serving Hong Kong.”

The host probed further: “You’re not going to do a Vladimir Putin, are you – stepping down and coming back again?”

Leung laughed off the idea. “I’m definitely not Mr Putin, but I just have no plan.”

He also declined to speculate on which of his former colleagues – Lam and Tsang – would make a better successor.

“I shouldn’t comment on it ... They have not come up with their [election] manifesto – I’d like to see it first,” he replied.