Hong Kong’s biggest pro-Beijing party takes a swipe at John Tsang over his spending record

DAB leader Starry Lee edges closer to backing Carrie Lam in chief executive race

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 11:23pm

Hong Kong’s biggest pro-Beijing party has launched a veiled attack on a front runner in the city’s leadership race, John Tsang Chun-wah, for consistently underestimating fiscal reserves when he was financial secretary.

The comments indicate that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)is inching closer to supporting former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate in the chief executive election.

DAB chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king said on Tuesday that her party’s central committee would decide which of the four contenders to recommend to its 100-plus members on the 1,200-strong Election Committee that will pick the new leader in March after meeting the four individually in the coming week.

Hong Kong chief executive hopeful John Tsang leads the social media race

The meeting with Lam is scheduled for Friday, a day after her major campaign event expected to be attended by some DAB supporters.

Lee highlighted the need for the next chief executive to stop underestimating the fiscal reserves, a consistent trend during Tsang’s tenure as financial secretary that earned him criticism for being “miserly” and was interpreted as a lack of will to spend more on welfare and public services.

We hope the new chief executive could ... be ready to use the funds to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor
Starry Lee, DAB leader

“We hope the new chief executive could adjust his or her attitude to our financial reserves and be ready to use the funds to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor,” Lee said.

In August Lam said she did not agree with the overemphasis on the Basic Law provision to keep government expenditure within the limits of revenue, telling a group of students: “When you have a great deal of money – revenues worth HK$800 billion – you’ve got to spend.”

On speculation that Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong was behind Lam’s campaign, Lee said: “We exchange our views with the liaison office from time to time. Do you count that as electioneering?”

DAB members have joined the campaign teams of both Lam and Tsang. Lawmakers Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan and Leung Che-cheung have vowed support for Lam, the former No 2 official, while Felix Fong Wo, a founding party member, is acting as Tsang’s legal adviser.

DAB veteran Ip Kwok-him reportedly met Tsang in December and suggested he stay out of the leadership race.

Tsang said on his Facebook page he was busy writing his full election platform and invited Hongkongers to leave comments there for him to address.

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired High Court judge Woo Kwok-hing are also campaigning for the top job. On Tuesday Woo attended the Lunar New Year Cup soccer match at the Hong Kong Stadium.

The powerful rural body, the Heung Yee Kuk, which has 27 votes in the Election Committee, will meet Lam, Ip and Tsang today to hear their platforms, kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung said.

Kuk members had earlier indicated they were likely to endorse Lam.