Hong Kong chief executive hopeful Regina Ip hits out at Carrie Lam as she struggles to secure nominations

Lawmaker casts doubt on whether former chief secretary would make a good chief executive, saying she is not qualified to be a ‘modern politician’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 8:10am

Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has hit out at front runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the lawmaker struggles to secure enough nominations to enter the race.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, the New People’s Party chairwoman said she was still seeking nominations to meet the required 150 nominations from the 1,194-strong Election Committee, which will choose the next leader on March 26.

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Ip criticised Lam – seen in some quarters as Beijing’s favourite – as not being qualified to be a ­“modern politician” and believed she was running a poor ­campaign.

Seen as an underdog in the race, Ip declined to say if she found the existing electoral arrangements had failed her, but agreed that Beijing should consider expanding the committee’s membership for the 2022 poll to make it easier for a person to become qualified as a candidate.

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Lam, the former chief secretary, is expected to spell our her full election platform on Monday and submit her nominations on Tuesday – one day before nominations close.

Watch: Regina Ip speaks to the Post about her leadership bid

Another contender, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, submitted his nominations on Saturday. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing said he had collected enough nominations to qualify for the race.

“I don’t think the 1,200 structure will help Beijing in the long term,” Ip said, referring to the full membership of the committee. “This time, pan-democrats got 320-plus. If our governance does not improve in the next five years and if the young people continue to distrust the government, next time we might have 500 pan-democrat electors or anti-establishment electors [in the committee].”

While Ip remained tight-lipped about the number of nominations she had so far secured, she said her campaign had entered a “dramatic stage”, insisting many electors from the pan-democratic camp had privately expressed willingness to offer her help.

With some 120 pan-democrats nominating Tsang and more than 150 thought to be backing Woo, only about 50 of the 326 pan-democrat members on the Election Committee could conceivably nominate Ip.

The lawmaker maintained her campaign was much better than Lam’s but said she had been hit by “ideological problems”.

“It seems that people are casting votes on the basis of ideology, not performance. But I think there are some pan-democrat electors who are willing to help in the interest of promoting competition,” Ip said. “Competition is important. A competitive election has a better chance of producing a more capable chief executive.”

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She also cast doubt on whether Lam would make a good chief executive, saying she was not willing to listen to views.

“Modern politicians need to be more open, more engaging ... of the media as well as voices in our society,” Ip said.

“Five years ago, I voted for [Leung Chun-ying]. I thought he ran a genuine campaign. [He] made real efforts to go to districts to engage different people to win over people who used to dislike him. Carrie’s campaign is different. Her campaign is weaker than [Leung’s] campaign,” she said.

In her live Facebook interview with the Post, Ip also criticised Woo’s election promise of introducing legislation under Article 22 of the Basic Law to outlaw mainland interference in local affairs

“That is easier said than done. It is just a pipe dream,” she said. “But these ideas appeal to the young people. Many of the young professionals I think are truly idealistic.”

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member Tam Yiu-chung said Tsang “undoubtedly represents the pan-democratic camp”, but it was too early to say whether pan-democrat support would help him win the race.

CPPCC standing committee member Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, a member of Lam’s election team, declined to comment on pan-democrat backing for Tsang. “It is good to have more candidates entering the race ... I believe election committee members will make the best decision and elect a good chief executive that can help Hong Kong to move forward.”

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung in Beijing, Emily Tsang and Phila Siu