Who won the big Hong Kong chief executive debate?

Lawmaker Regina Ip, commentator Michael Chugani and political scientist Ma Ngok give their penny’s worth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 5:34pm

New People’s Party leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who dropped out of the race for chief executive, said former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah performed best among all three candidates and emerged as the most likeable in the debate hosted by seven media organisations at TVB City.

The other two candidates taking part were former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and former judge Woo Kwok-hing.

However, political commentator Michael Chugani disagreed with Ip’s verdict and believed Tsang “looked very defensive and surly”. He said none of the three was able “to deliver a knock-out blow” to emerge the winner.

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Ip said Lam was “doing okay” by showcasing her strength – being very familiar with policies – but she said things she should not have on several occasions and sounded too bureaucratic.

“She dropped a bombshell by saying that if her position was once contrary to mainstream public opinion, she would resign.”

“I don’t think an aspiring leader should make such promises easily. That could be interpreted as reflecting a lack of will to govern.”

“I think she has misspoken on this,” said Ip, who was watching the debate live with her would-be election campaign team in her office in Wan Chai.

“John Tsang appeared to be more aggressive than expected. He hit Carrie hard on a number of issues.”

These included issues related to small housing and the Avenue of Stars.

Ip also praised Tsang’s performance, saying he was more sincere and confident and he scored points by having a human touch.

“I believe the general public would find him most agreeable,” she said.

Speaking separately, Chugani told the Post he thought Lam looked “more relaxed and self-confident” than Tsang.

“They all read from the notes and did not connect with the people watching TV at home,” Chugani argued. “There was no passion from any of them or feeling of vision.”

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The columnist and television host also said Tsang appeared most appealing to the public, while Woo played the card of a political outsider.

“But he is not a political figure, and he is not familiar with the government’s work,” Chugani said.

Ip also said Woo was the weakest candidate as he appeared to be very tired, losing attention easily, and he was not familiar with policy details.

“He only stressed a few principles such as the rule of law again and again,” she said.

Asked what she would have asked if she had participated in the debate, she said she would ask Lam how she could mend the fragmented community.

She also said no one had provided a good answer on how to solve the land shortage problem.

“Everyone avoided giving a clear answer on this and pushed the question back to other candidates.”

Lamenting that Ip had dropped out of the race, Chugani said: “As I watched the debate, I kept saying to myself – why wasn’t Regina Ip there? She would have added a lot more meaning, fire and honestly ... and she was a government official and [currently] a legislative councillor.”

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Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok thought Tsang performed best, Lam came second and Woo third, but both Tsang and Lam sounded very bureaucratic and answered without much substance.

Ma criticised Lam for placing the blame on Tsang on almost every issue, from illegal structures on New Territories village houses to the land controversy at Wang Chau in Yuen Long. He said it was not a debate and Lam’s pushy performance probably gave the public a bad impression.

As for Tsang’s performance, Ma said he was well prepared for quotes like “CY 2.0” – the nickname given by critics to Lam, referring to her as a second version of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

“He showed sincerity though he stuttered as usual”.

Ma also said Woo was clearly not prepared for the debate.