Hong Kong business groups meet prospective city leaders

Rural heavyweights in the Heung Yee Kuk set to give unanimous backing to Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 11:29pm

Business chambers on Tuesday urged contenders for Hong Kong’s highest office to restore harmony in the city, while rural power broker the Heung ­Yee Kuk became one of the first groups to openly indicate its backing for ­former No 2 official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Lam, perceived as Beijing’s preferred choice for the March election, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, and New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee held separate meetings with three business chambers on Tuesday. The fourth aspirant, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, gave a speech on his governance vision at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

While the kuk has yet to meet Lam after she declared her candidacy last week, its vice-chairman, Cheung Hok-ming, said the politically influential rural body had decided on Monday that all its 26 Election Committee members and chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung would bundle their nominations together. A candidate needs at least 150 nominations from the 1,194-member committee to be eligible, and at least 601 to win.

Cheung said the kuk “tended to support” Lam, and he and Lau had been invited to join her campaign team.

That caused some confusion between the kuk and Ip, who said she understood that the rural body was worried about upsetting New Territories villagers by endorsing Lam unanimously. Lam had been criticised by the villagers when she led a crackdown on unauthorised structures during her tenure as development minister.

Cheung later dismissed Ip’s claim and confirmed that the kuk had reached a consensus on its inclination to nominate Lam.

The rural leaders’ relatively clear stance contrasted with that of business leaders who met Tsang, Ip and Lam separately.

After a meeting with Tsang, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce chairman Jonathan Choi Koon-sum said: “We hope he can find the balance between the city’s economy and people’s livelihood and create social harmony.” Choi added that his chamber’s 18 Election Committee members had yet to lean towards any candidate.

Choi’s stance was echoed by Eddy Li Sau-hung, president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association. The association, with 18 Election Committee members, was the only group that met both Tsang and Lam on Tuesday.

Li said in their meeting with Tsang, members stated their views on the problems faced by small and medium-sized enterprises. They would discuss which candidate to support after meeting all of them, but would not necessarily vote as a bloc, he added. “We hope the next government can strike a balance between different sectors’ interests ... and foster social harmony,” he said.

Lam said that during the meeting, she had pledged to step up work on boosting the economy. “It is because a good economy will give us the capability to improve people’s livelihoods,” she said.

“My friends in the business sector also agree that to make Hong Kong a caring society, the government needs to help the underprivileged with welfare ­services.”