Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has given a candid assessment of her ability to become the leader of Hong Kong - by expressing doubts she is up to the job of chief executive.
Fan, who tops polls of likely candidates, described her lack of economic knowledge as a weakness and said she would meet experts next month to collect their views on economic policies.
The 65-year-old Beijing loyalist, who has not said she definitely that she will run for election to the top job next year, was speaking yesterday after attending a health forum in Eastern district.
'Before making a decision, I need to first assess whether I am capable of shouldering this big responsibility. If I go ahead without the capacity, this will just let Hongkongers down,' Fan said.
'I should think about it now ... The first thing to do is to reflect what weaknesses and shortcomings I have. I have to talk to people and learn more. I am very unfamiliar with economic issues, because I have never run a business,' she said.
Her would-be competitors, Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying, both have business backgrounds.
But there is one thing she has over the pair - popularity. As a former president of the Legislative Council and now the local member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, recent public opinion polls have placed her way ahead of her potential rivals.
Fan said she had recently been encouraged by some people to run: 'I thank Hong Kong people for their support. Some Hongkongers want me to stand. If I don't consider it, this will let them down.'
Asked about rumours over the health of former president Jiang Zemin, Fan did not give a direct answer as to whether health concerns and the longevity of former state leaders would affect the selection of the chief executive. She said only that major policy decisions on the mainland were made collectively.
Former NPC deputy Ng Hong-mun, who in May suggested what he called an 'iron triangle' cabinet with Fan as the chief executive, Tang as chief secretary and Leung as the financial secretary, said her latest comments meant she was determined to seek the top job.
'She spoke so concretely, saying she was an amateur in economics and would talk with experts. What's that for? Obviously she wants to be the chief executive,' he told Cable TV.
Dr Li Pang- kwong, the director of the public governance programme at Lingnan University, said Fan's remarks would enable her to buy time before making a decision.
'If she has decided to run, why wouldn't she start meeting experts to draft her blueprint now rather than wait until next month?' Li said.
'By saying she needed to seek expert views on economic issues, she is creating room for herself.'