After ending second run at Hong Kong’s top job, Regina Ip says there aren’t enough nominations to go around

Former security chief rues dried-up business support

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 7:54pm

Hong Kong’s next leader will face an uphill battle resuscitating a derailed electoral reform process as public confidence declines over the restrictive “831” framework, said failed chief executive hopeful Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

Speaking on a radio programme in her first interview since ending her campaign on Wednesday, Ip also described how desperate attempts to canvas support in the final days never came to much as supporters abandoned her to the extent of avoiding her phone calls.

The situation, she said, could cause people to lose trust in the already controversial framework laid down by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on August 31, 2014, which allows only two to three candidates to run pending approval from majority of a 1,200-member nominating committee.

Watch: Regina Ip drops out of Hong Kong leadership race

“After this [campaign] experience, I believe it will be impossible to take forward the 831 framework,” Ip said. “This time around there are still three candidates, but it was obvious that they signalled support for just one candidate [Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor] very early on. This could affect many residents’ trust in this framework.”

The New People’s Party chairwoman called it quits on Wednesday after 77 days on the campaign trail, having failed to get the 150 nominations required to qualify for the race.

Watch: Regina Ip talks to SCMP about her bid

She blamed a “restrictive” electoral system with just 1,194 nominations up for grabs and a pro- establishment and big business that could not openly support her as a result of the perceived backing of Lam.

“There were many business sector people who said they wanted to help me enter the race, but this didn’t work out in the end so it was very unfortunate,” she said. “[They said they could not nominate me] because of their ‘big brothers’ ... and I completely understand their positions.”

Ip said she knew the end was near last weekend when key pro-establishment and supporters figures went incommunicado and those with links to national and provincial politics stopped inviting her to events.

“By then, I realised the pro-establishment really had their hands tied,” she said. “District councillors on Hong Kong Island whom I’ve cooperated with wouldn’t even pick up their phones. The district council chairpersons who had pledged to help me at first ... disappeared.”

The district council chairpersons who had pledged to help me at first ... disappeared
Regina Ip, failed chief executive candidate

Former chief secretary Lam now leads the three-horse race. She entered with 580 nominations – nearly four times the amount required. John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing got 165 and 180 nominations respectively.

Ip said even a high number of votes in a small-circle election would not translate to governability. “Even if you get 801 votes, so what? Can you solve the filibuster in Legco? What about society’s deep- seated divisions? Even 901 votes is limited [power].”

Asked why Beijing may have favoured Lam over her, Ip said the former chief secretary may have had the advantage of being younger, at 59, making it more likely she could easily govern for two terms and already had stronger political connections and experience. “From a bureaucratic standpoint, she’s a pretty good choice.”

Ip, 66, said she had no interest in joining the next administration.