John Tsang, Woo Kwok-hing reach magic 150 nominations in Hong Kong chief executive race

Ex-finance chief first to submit his nominations while ex-judge exceeds 150 with pan-democrat backing; Carrie Lam to make her move later this week

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 9:21am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 12:24am

Hong Kong’s leadership election is set to be a three-horse race as two underdogs have secured enough support to get an entry ticket, with one of them, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, formally submitting his bid on Saturday.

Tsang and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing will join Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, seen as Beijing’s preferred choice, to compete for the top job on March 26.

Regina Ip says Beijing offered her top jobs to quit Hong Kong leadership race

Critics say Tsang, who enjoys higher support in opinion polls, has only a slim chance of winning as he secured little backing from the pro-establishment camp, bagging just 10 of his 160 nominees from that sector.

An aspirant needs 150 nominations from the 1,194-member Election Committee to qualify, and at least 601 votes to win.

Tsang, who almost lost his footing on the way to the electoral office on Saturday, declined to give a breakdown of his supporters from the pan-democrat and pro-government camps.

“All along I don’t want to draw a line like this because it would further divide Hong Kong,” Tsang said. “That’s not desirable.”

Watch: John Tsang meets the press after submitting nominations

The electoral office said Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling was processing the nominations and would determine their validity in accordance with the law.

The pan-democrat camp, which holds 326, or a quarter of the seats on the committee, handed Tsang 125 nominations.

Beijing will trust me with Hong Kong’s top job, John Tsang says

Among Tsang’s 10 pro-establishment nominees are Thomas Jefferson Wu, a second-generation tycoon and managing director of Hopewell Holdings; Liberal Party leaders James Tien Pei-chun, Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee and Felix Chung Kwok-pan; financier Ricky Chim kim-lun and Hong Kong Securities Association vice-chairman Tsui Luen-on.

The remaining 25 do not have a strong political leaning, such as film director Derek Yee Tung-sing, two businessmen from the textile and garment sector and five from the Catholic and Protestant sectors.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think-tank based in Beijing, said it was hard for Tsang to acquire support from the pro-Beijing camp because Lam was believed to be favoured by Beijing.

Tsang’s reliance on pan-democrats would inevitably affect his relationship with the central government, Lau added.

A source from Tsang’s campaign told the Post that the former finance chief decided to submit his bid immediately after meeting the threshold “so those pro-establishment nominees would not be lobbied to turn to the other side”. Critics say Beijing’s liaison office in the city has been lobbying support for Lam.

“Another reason for the quick submission is that Tsang had agreed to coordinate with the pan-democrats, who want to use their remaining nominations to field Woo in the game,” the source added. “It’s not that Tsang likes to have one more rival but that’s the agreement.”

In the afternoon, the pan-democrats handed 47 nominations to Woo after a discussion, bringing the retired judge’s total number of tickets to 156.

Receiving the forms, Woo said it was “his happiest moment” since he declared his candidacy and he would strive to bring democracy to Hong Kong.

The remaining contestant, lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, said she would “fight till the end” before nominations closed on Wednesday, while admitting she lagged behind.

Lam’s office said she would unveil her full platform and submit her bid next week. She is reported to have more than 300 nominations.

One of her supporters, district councillor Raymond Ho Man-kit, was first in line outside the electoral office to check Tsang’s nominees, arriving before reporters. Ho claimed he came in his personal capacity but did not deny he was a member of Lam’s campaign office.

Meanwhile, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung announced he would give up his plan to join the race as he failed to secure enough “public nominations” in an unofficial poll. The League of Social Democrats lawmaker, who is against the small-circle nature of the election, had vowed to run for the top job if he could garner support from 38,000 people. He collected 20,234 names.

“All along I don’t think the democratic camp should vote for any establishment candidates,” Leung said. “What we fought for in [Occupy] should not be forgotten in any election.”

Additional reporting by Emily Tsang

Total number of nominations secured by John Tsang: 160

How the numbers add up:

Pan-democrats: 125

Non-politicians from alliance Democrats 300+, mostly in the 10 professional sectors including accountancy, education, information technology and medical

Seven Democratic Party lawmakers

Those with a clear pro-establishment background: 10

Thomas Jefferson Wu, managing director of Hopewell Holdings (hotels)

James Tien Pei-chun, Liberal Party honorary chairman (commercial)

Selina Chow Leung Shuk-yee, Liberal Party chairwoman (retail)

Felix Chung Kwok-pan, Liberal Party leader

Ricky Chim kim-lun, financier (financial services)

Tsui Luen-on, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Association (financial services)

Ronnie Ho Pak-ting, former chairman of the Travel Industry Council (tourism)

Three accountants, including Ronald Kung Yiu-fai, who do not support Leung Chun-ying

Others: 25

The list includes:

Derek Yee Tung-sing, film director (performing arts)

Chen Tong-sang (textile and garment)

Banny Yu Yuen-mau (textile and garment)

Jason Shum Jiu-sang (tourism)

Three members from the Hong Kong Christian Council subsector

Two members from the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong subsector

Choi Kin, Medical Association president (medical)