Former president Jiang Zemin surprisingly turned up for an event on Sunday to mark the centenary of the 1911 revolution, his first public appearance since intense speculation in July that he was terminally ill or had died. Many believe the appearance was aimed at sending out a message that he still wields influence within the Chinese government.
Henry Tang Ying-yen's father, the Shanghai textile industrialist Tang Hsiang-chien, is known to have close ties with Jiang. Thus the younger Tang, who is now preparing to run in the contest to be Hong Kong's next chief executive, is reportedly favoured by Jiang.
In early July, ATV wrongly reported on its prime-time news programme that Jiang had died. At that time, there were rumours that Tang had lost Beijing's backing, thus boosting the chances of the other potential candidates for the chief executive race, such as Leung Chun-ying and Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai.
Now with Jiang appearing to be well, what have these political commentators got to say? It's almost certain that many will feel uneasy about the latest development.
For one, Fan, a former president of the Legislative Council, must be feeling extremely awkward now. She has been grandstanding on the election issue, and has refused until now to clearly declare her interest in vying for the post.
Most of us will recall Fan saying a few months ago that her friends had been encouraging her to throw her hat into the ring. Later, she put forward a number of prerequisites for the next chief executive and said that, if the existing candidates did not live up to public expectations, she would consider joining the race. She was indirectly criticising Tang and Leung, inferring that they were not as popular as she was. At that time, some believed she had Beijing's blessing and they saw her as a front runner in the race.
Then, not long after Tang had clearly shown his intention to run, Fan immediately changed her tune and said he was an acceptable candidate. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Tang had had an extramarital affair. The news tarnished his image and his approval ratings nosedived. Fan then reversed her support and said she would consider public views before deciding whether she would run for the job.
Fan has been flip-flopping on whether she will join the race. Her latest explanation for changing her mind was that she had supported Tang because she did not know about his infidelity. It's surprising that Fan, a well-connected veteran politician, did not even hear rumours of his indiscretions. If she really didn't, we should seriously doubt how well-informed she would be as a top leader.
Fan is a political opportunist. She knows full well that her popularity with some Hongkongers would count for little in the chief executive election because she has no experience in governance. In fact, she doesn't have a strong team behind her who could help her run the government. Her age and her health are other issues.
If she is fully committed to contributing to Hong Kong and serving its people, she would have put her name forward earlier and started preparing for her campaign. By not doing so, she seemed content to be standing by, hoping to be chosen if the others fail.
During colonial rule, Fan served her British masters with the utmost loyalty and was appointed to both the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. She then switched her loyalty to Beijing after falling out of favour with then governor Chris Patten.
Fan has not changed over the years. Recently, when asked by reporters about her views on the June 4 crackdown, Fan said Hong Kong people didn't get to find out the whole truth because they only read the reports by Western media. She should not have tried to pull the wool over the eyes of 7 million Hongkongers.
Fan should realise that there is no place in the government for a politician who has neither leadership ability nor political courage.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org