CHIEF EXECUTIVE RACE

Hong Kong National People’s Congress deputy refuses to tone down comments amid election threat

Michael Tien also says people close to Beijing have asked him to support chief executive candidate Carrie Lam, although he currently backs rival John Tsang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 10:51pm

National People’s Congress deputy Michael Tien Puk-sun has refused to stop being outspoken amid reports that other members have persuaded Beijing not to let him keep his seat for implying that the central government was interfering with the chief executive election.

The Hong Kong deputy also told the Post that people close to the central government had asked him to support chief executive candidate Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor.

“Judging from the backgrounds of those people, I don’t believe they were just expressing their own views. They were passing on some voices. They were the so-called loyal middlemen,” Tien said on the sidelines of the annual NPC session.

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Tien, who is also a lawmaker from the New People’s Party, said in January that the race for Hong Kong’s top job had “lost its shape” due to increasing interference by an “invisible hand”.

I had to make those remarks because they represented Hong Kong ­people’s thoughts
Michael Tien, New People’s Party lawmaker

Despite being in the pro-establishment camp, Tien has been outspoken in his comments. Last year, he wrote to the NPC ­asking Beijing to come clean on the disappearance of bookseller Lee Po, who ran a shop that specialised in publications critical of the Communist Party.

Reports have suggested that other NPC deputies have told ­Beijing that Tien should not be re-elected next year. Tien said he was “not totally surprised”.

He said there were times when other NPC deputies distanced themselves from sensitive incidents like the booksellers saga, and he was the only one who said those incidents fell within the ­purview of local NPC deputies.

“The central government may not like what I have said. But I had to make those remarks because they represented Hong Kong ­people’s thoughts ... I see no ­reason for me to change my behaviour,” he said.

“My daughter once told me she would support me as long as I didn’t make compromises. She asked me to stay true to myself.”

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On the upcoming chief executive election, he believed that while Lam was Beijing’s preferred choice, the central government did not find former financial ­secretary John Tsang Chun-wah totally unacceptable.

Tien noted that no mainland officials had publicly declared which candidate is supported by Beijing during the current NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference sessions in Beijing.

Wang Guangya, head of the Hong Kong and Macau ­Affairs ­Office, would only say that the next chief executive should love the country and Hong Kong, be trusted by Beijing, have the ability to govern and be supported by Hongkongers.

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Tien said if he was to vote ­today, he would choose Tsang ­because he was popular among young people.

But if Lam was able to narrow the popularity gap with Tsang, he would consider ­voting for Lam.