John Tsang looks to seek pan-democrat’s approval ahead of election bid

The chief executive contender needs the backing of pan-dem camp in his coming election bid

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 9:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 11:28pm

Former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, the popular underdog in Hong Kong’s leadership race, has extended an olive branch to sceptical pan-democrats, signalling readiness to renegotiate his platform on the city’s electoral reform.

He also pledged to “prioritise” a review on the policy under which mainland authorities exercised full control over approval of the 150 daily permits for mainlanders to settle in Hong Kong – a source of anti-mainland sentiment in the city – according to Election Committee members who met him on Saturday.

For Tsang, backing from pan-democrats is critical for him to be able to join the chief executive race, as a majority of pro-Beijing votes look set to favour former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

“I will continue to talk with pan-democrats regarding my election platform, in particular political reform,” Tsang said, ahead of his meeting with the Democratic Party on Sunday.

He made the vow after pan-democrats appeared hesitant to back him during a meeting with dozens committee members ­on Saturday.

Pan-democrats caught between a rock and a hard place

They cited worry that such a move would be “suicidal” and detrimental to democratic development, due to his lack of a promise to adopt a liberal approach to ­future democratic development away from a restrictive 2014 framework set by Beijing, according to participants.

“At this stage, quite a number of members are disinclined to offer immediate support for Tsang given what he has said on political reform,” said a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Separately, the former finance chief also met medical sector ­voters. Doctor Ho Pak-leung, of the medical sector, said Tsang made a pledge to make it a “priority” to review the permit policy for mainlanders coming to the city.

Carrie Lam, meanwhile, met a number of sectors yesterday, including Catholics, surveyors and architects, some of whom are in the pro-democracy camp.

Lam raised eyebrows for asking rhetorically on Friday why she needed to say “no” to Beijing’s ­liaison office, which appeared to be canvassing support for her.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a National People’s Congress standing committee delegate and one of the advisors for Lam, jumped to her defence: “The central government is a stakeholder as the chief executive is a bridge between Hong Kong and Beijing,” she said. “It has a right to express its views, which does not necessarily amount to interference.”