CHIEF EXECUTIVE RACE

Former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa tells Beijing figures to back top job hopeful Lam after controversial hug

Delegates of top advisory say the elder statesman was only expressing his personal views

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 6:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 9:33pm

Tung Chee-hwa, the vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body, has given chief executive candidate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yet another boost bytelling a group of pro-establishment figures in Beijing to vote for “the person he has hugged”.

Tung on Saturday told a group of Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing that Lam was the best candidate for the chief executive, according to two delegates who refused to be named.

The former chief executive was referring to the hug he gave Lam during a ceremony to commemorate the Nanjing massacre last December. The eyebrow-raising move fuelled speculation that the elder statesman was conferring Beijing’s blessing on Lam.

Ex-leader Tung Chee-hwa to keep things at arm’s length after causing stir by hugging favourite for top Hong Kong job

“Tung did not name anyone and I do not know who he hugged before,” Tam Yiu-chung, a local delegate from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said.

Another delegate, Peter Lam Kin-ngok, said Tung was only reflecting his own views and did not urge attendees to vote for anyone.

Tung did not name anyone and I do not know who he hugged before
Tam Yiu-chung, CPPCC delegate

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a delegate and vice-chairman of the think tank Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Tung had the right to share his views and his remarks would not compromise the impartiality of the election.

In Hong Kong, Lam said she did not see any special meaning behind Tung’s hug and it was something she did whenever she met the former chief executive.

“I don’t like to comment on what was quoted [by a third party]. But Mr Tung is a respected senior of mine. When he was the chief executive, or after he stepped down from the post, every time he met me or other female civil servants, he is very cordial.

“When we meet each other, we usually hug as a greeting. So, I don’t think he has wanted to signal anything by [hugging me],” Lam said.

Tung caused a political storm last month when he warned that Beijing would not appoint the winner of the race if it considered him or her unacceptable – an apparent reference to Lam’s rival and Hong Kong’s former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

He also reportedly said Tsang’s capability could not be compared to Lam’s.

A spokesman for Tung said he would offer no further comment.