Pro-Beijing veteran not worried that Carrie Lam will fail to obtain 601 votes on Hong Kong chief executive election day

National People’s Congress delegate Maria Tam thinks some pan-democrats may back former chief secretary in secret ballot on March 26

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 4:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 6:28pm

A veteran Beijing loyalist says she is not “too worried” that chief executive candidate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will not obtain the 601 votes required to win the city’s leadership race on March 26, as she believes some pan-democrats will vote for Lam in the secret ballot.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, convenor of the 36-strong Hong Kong delegation to the National People’s Congress, was speaking a day after Lam expressed confidence that she would attract some votes from the camp.

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The former chief secretary is the only candidate in Hong Kong’s leadership race without any nominations from pan-democrats, as her 580 backers all come from the pro-establishment camp in the 1,194-strong Election Committee.

The committee will elect the city’s next leader on March 26, and Lam’s critics believe that 50 to 100 of Lam’s nominators may vote for her rivals.

Tam was asked in Beijing if she was worried about Lam not getting 601 votes. She initially said: “I can only say that I hope this won’t happen.”

But Tam later clarified: “I am not too worried because I read from analyses in newspapers that more than 100 ironclad votes have yet to be revealed.”

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Tam was understood to be referring to Federation of Trade Unions’ members and district councillors who did not nominate anyone.

“Pan-democrats not nominating Lam does not mean they will not eventually vote for her,” Tam said.

Speaking separately, Hong Kong deputy Cheng Yiu-tong, who is also an honorary president of the trade union federation, said the group had yet to decide which chief executive candidate to back, although he stressed he would vote for Lam.

Outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying was criticised for lacking a strong mandate to govern after he won just 689 votes from the Election Committee in 2012.

Political commentators questioned if Lam’s mandate would be even weaker if she won between 601 and 689 votes.

Hong Kong leadership hopeful Carrie Lam confident of winning votes from pan-democratic camp

But Maria Tam dismissed such fears, saying “do more votes means the chief executive can get things done, and less votes mean otherwise? I think what matters are a strong cabinet and the way she does things.”

There has been speculation about whether Beijing will refuse to appoint John Tsang Chun-wah if the former financial secretary wins the race.

Tam declined to comment on the possibility, but said a chief executive would need both “the people and the central government’s trust” and trusting someone as a minister and a chief executive were different things.

She also said while the 36 Hong Kong delegates would not bundle their votes, she believed most would vote for Lam.

Lam, Tsang and former judge Woo Kwok-hing are the three contenders in the chief executive race after Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee dropped out for failing to secure the required 150 nominations on Wednesday.