Chief executive contenders Carrie Lam and Regina Ip take swipe at rival John Tsang at banking seminar
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Regina Ip Lau criticise former financial chief and chief executive rival over lack of backing for Financial Services Development Council
Two chief executive contenders launched a thinly veiled attack on rival John Tsang Chun-wah by questioning why so few resources were allocated to an official body tasked with boosting the financial services industry.
Former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee were speaking separately on Wednesday at a seminar organised by the Chi Tung Association – a group of bankers and senior executives in the sector.
The association organised separate sessions with Lam, Ip and Tsang, the former financial secretary, and about 40 members of the Election Committee attended. The 1,194 members of the committee will pick the city’s next leader on March 26.
Speaking in the first session, Lam appeared reluctant to give a detailed answer on questions such as how a rise in US interest rates would affect Hong Kong and how to support small and medium brokerages.
But when asked to cite the difference between the Trade Development Council and the Financial Services Development Council, Lam said: “They are very different. The TDC has the power to execute and has resources.
“But the FSDC doesn’t have any executive power or resources. I don’t understand why it was not given much resources after so many years – maybe it is more appropriate to ask another candidate,” she said, in an oblique reference to Tsang.
In Ip’s session, the lawmaker said the administration had not done enough to promote the financial services industry.
Referring to the financial council’s chairwoman, Laura Cha Shih May-lung, Ip said: “Mrs Cha does not have anyone working under her; the council’s staff are seconded from the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau or the Trade Development Council.
“The financial bureau is also facing difficulties of its own ... because its talents, resources and expertise are not as strong as the Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission.”
Ip added: “You have to choose the right chief executive first, and I will appoint a financial secretary and bureau chief who knows the industry and is not just talking about tactics on paper.”
Tsang was a civil servant for decades while Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung used to be a finance professor and dean of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s business school.
However, speaking after his meeting, Tsang countered that the veiled attacks on him by his rivals were “not true”.
“There are different agencies doing different aspects of the work in terms of promoting the financial services of Hong Kong ... The TDC is doing good work. Just look at the extent the AFF [Asian Financial Forum] has been welcomed by people around the world,” Tsang said.
“The financial team’s success can be seen ... in the financial stability that the city has enjoyed amid very bad economic circumstances around the world since the 2008 financial storm.”
In another development, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce has become the first group to confirm it would nominate Lam. Chairman Jonathan Choi Koon-shum said its 18 committee members, including himself, had submitted their nomination form to Lam. They were also likely to vote for her on March 26.
Meanwhile, in a pre-recorded TV interview, Lam said the government’s failure to get its political reform package passed in the legislature in 2015 was the incident she regretted most in her 36 years of public service.
“As the main official promoting the package, I spent some 20 months – or about one-third of the term of the government – on it. It was a mission that was both honourable and difficult. But it is the most regretful that it could not get passed,” she said.
The proposal for electing the city’s executive was based on Beijing’s restrictive framework, under which only two or three hopefuls could run for the post, and candidates also needed to win majority support from a 1,200-member nominating committee before proceeding to the popular vote. Critics called this a form of political screening.
Lam also described her first run in an election as being “educational”.
“There are a lot of things I have to learn. I have no experience in elections, and I need to seek advice from my campaign team,” she said.
Citing the use of social media as an example, Lam said: “In the past, as a government official, I did not pay much attention to building up my personal image. So, I did not use social media.
“But in an election campaign, it has become unavoidable [to use social media] to let people know more about you as a person.”