Hong Kong chief executive candidates Carrie Lam and John Tsang clash over spectrum of political support

Ex-finance secretary says his nominations come from all across the board, while just one bloc backs his rival

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 10:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 2:53am

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah on Thursday were poles apart on the definition of “broadly representative” in terms of public support as they attended the first election forum after qualifying as official candidates in the city’s leadership race.

The two arch-rivals took pot shots at each other without meeting face to face at two separate sharing sessions organised by the Beijing-friendly All-China Women’s Federation Hong Kong Delegates Association.

Tsang, the former financial secretary and only candidate in the three-horse race to bag nominations from across the political spectrum, launched a veiled attack at Lam, whose 580 entry tickets were solely from the Beijing-friendly bloc.

“I believe anyone who becomes the next chief executive requires support from the whole society,” he said, after meeting some 300 attendees from 20 women’s groups. “Anyone who wins the race simply by relying on the support from one end of political spectrum would face huge difficulties in governance.”

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Tsang managed only 165 nominations, with a small portion from the pro-establishment camp. The third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, won all his 180 nominations from the opposition bloc in the 1,194-member Election Committee that will pick Hong Kong’s next leader on March 26.

But Lam, while trailing Tsang in the popularity stakes, countered that she met the standard of “broadly representative”.

“The Election Committee was formed by four sectors and I have secured a fair amount of nominations from each of the four sectors,” Lam said. “That is the other side of the coin.”

She was referring to the grouping of committee members into business, professional, social and political sectors.

Lam also said she did not try hard to lobby pan-democrats – even those she was familiar with – during the nomination stage as the bloc, made up of 326 members, was determined to bundle its votes and not name her. “But I will try my best to fight for support from every voter in the coming three to four weeks,” she said.

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Meanwhile, the all-China women’s association, which holds 22 votes in the Election Committee, has signalled its support for Lam, although it will not be voting as a bloc.

Connie Wong Wai-ching, honorary president of the association, said many attendees were excited to see Lam being elected as the first female chief executive. Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Federation of Women, held up a cardboard sign blessing Lam’s campaign.

In a related development in Beijing, Maria Tam Wai-chu, a delegate to the National People’s Congress, said she was not “too worried” about Lam not getting the 601 votes required to win the race later this month as she claimed some pan-democrats would vote for her in the secret ballot.

Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said he believed Hong Kong could elect a patriotic leader who has the ability to govern, is able to win trust from the central government and support from Hongkongers.