Pan-democrat support builds for Hong Kong chief executive candidate John Tsang as election looms

Second party from the camp to throw its support behind the former financial secretary

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 2:19pm

John Tsang Chun-wah’s campaign for the Hong Kong’s top job received another strong boost on Monday with the Democratic Party announcing its support for the former financial secretary less than a week before the chief executive election.

“All our seven lawmakers would vote for Tsang and we would also recommend our members who are sitting in the Election Committee to vote for him,” Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said.

“Tsang is the only candidate in the eyes of the democrats to be able to unite Hongkongers and win over their trust.”

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The party altogether holds 30 votes in the 1,194-member Election Committee and is the second from the pan-democratic camp to throw its support behind Tsang after Civic Party did so earlier this month.

The announcement came just a day after the three candidates – Tsang, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Woo Kwok-hing – battled each other in an election debate in front of Election Committee.

The Election Committee will elect the city’s next leader this Sunday, March 26.

While Tsang has led in popularity polls, Lam, who is perceived as Beijing’s preferred choice, has already won over far more support from the Election Committee, which is largely dominated by the pro-establishment bloc.

Democrat James To Kun-sun said it was misleading for Lam’s supporters to suggest that she could mend the rift between the pro-establishment and the pan-democratic camps following such a divisive election.

“As a veteran pan-democrat, my judgment is Lam could not do so,” the lawmaker said.

He added that Lam, who has so far refrained from committing to relaunch the stalled political reform process, would not even be able to start a dialogue with the pan-democratic camp.

To also tried to convince Beijing’s top officials to change their mind on their preferred candidate.

“[The central government] has hoped to prove to the world that the ‘one country, two systems’ model is successful as the city celebrates the 20th anniversary of the handover on July 1,” he said.

“The election result will tell not only the international community, but also Hongkongers and Taiwanese whether the model is a success or a failure.”

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The Democratic Party’s decision to back Tsang marks the first time the party will vote for a pro-establishment candidate in the chief executive election. The pan-democratic camp has fielded its own candidates in previous elections.

Veteran democrat Dr Yeung Sum said the party decided to back Tsang in order to give Hongkongers hope.

“We have courageously taken this move and we hope the pro-establishment voters also have the courage to take this step,” he said.

The D300+, a grouping of the 320-plus pan-democrats in the Election Committee, are set to meet on Monday night to discuss voting preferences. It is believed most of them will similarly endorse Tsang.