Leong enters race on 'historic' day

Securing 132 nominations, he says he's making a small step towards democracy

Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit formally signed up for the chief executive race with 132 nominations, saying he is representing those 'without a vote, power or money'.

Though he faces certain defeat when the 796 Election Committee members vote on March 25, Mr Leong - the first member of the pan-democratic camp to qualify as a candidate - said yesterday was 'a day that will go down in the history of the democratic movement in Hong Kong'.

His nominators come from 12 Election Committee sub-sectors; nearly two-thirds come from the social welfare, legal, higher education and Legislative Council sectors. He did not nominate himself.

Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah said he understood PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai, who has called for 'real democracy' in Hong Kong, would nominate Mr Tsang. Mr Tong said Mr Li was under 'lots of pressure' to do so.

Flanked by pan-democrats and his wife, Carol Chen Suk-yi, Mr Leong said: 'Today, Alan Leong has made a small step towards democracy, but I believe that with the support of every citizen, we will soon reach our goal of universal suffrage.

'The success or failure of my participation in the chief executive election does not hinge on whether I can enter Government House. Rather, I hope my participation can revive Hong Kong citizens' interest in local politics and lead them to reflect on the unfairness of the current system.'

Mr Leong said he would bring vision to Hong Kong.

He would not predict how many of his nominators would vote for Mr Tsang. Mr Leong called on voters and Hong Kong citizens to judge the candidates' performances before making a decision.

High Court judge Barnabas Fung Wah, the returning officer for the chief executive election, ruled Mr Leong's candidacy was valid.

Sources close to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he would hand in his application tomorrow. Mr Tsang has secured about 600 nominations so far.

Of Mr Leong's 132 nominators, only two - Cheung Chor-yung of the higher education sub-sector and Edith Clancey To Ling-chu of the religious sub-sector - were not on the list of candidates pan-democratic supporters were urged to vote for in December's Election Committee poll.

Professor Cheung said he decided to nominate Mr Leong because his voters supported a contested election, and because a competitive election could perform a check-and-balance role since candidates would have to debate policy issues.

Former Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes and William Poon Tak-fai - who were on the pan-democrats' list of recommended candidates - have not nominated Mr Leong.

A spokeswoman for Mr Tsang's campaign predicted Mr Dykes, who is abroad, would end up nominating Mr Leong. Mr Poon could not be reached yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mr Tsang met Election Committee members from the culture and health services sub-sectors. Cecilia So Chui-kuen, vice-president of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, was one of eight members of the health services sector to give their nominations to the incumbent.

A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office confirmed Mr Tsang would not attend next month's meetings in Beijing of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference because of 're-election activities' and chief executive duties.