Maverick Ricky Wong’s ‘Anyone but CY’ campaign may well win him a seat in Hong Kong’s legislature
Gary Cheung says the city’s ‘bad boy’ entrepreneur has a good chance of becoming a legislator by banking on the unpopularity of the chief executive
Ricky Wong Wai-kay is no stranger to taking on giants. In the 1990s, his City Telecom start-up launched an alternative IDD service that single-handedly broke Cable & Wireless HKT’s monopoly grip on international direct dialling in Hong Kong.
Two decades on, Wong has set his sights on a bigger target. Last week, the “bad boy” entrepreneur dropped a bombshell by declaring his intention to run in the Legislative Council election in September, baldly stating his aim was to prevent Leung Chun-ying from winning another five-year term. He said Hong Kong deserved a “more honest” chief executive.
By kicking off what he calls the “ABC campaign” (Anybody but CY), the maverick businessman has succeeded in setting the agenda and stealing the media limelight from other potential rivals in Hong Kong Island or New Territories East – the two constituencies he’s eyeing a run in – even before submitting the nomination form in July.
If he does enter the race, the odds on the HKTV chairman winning a Legco seat are very good as he grasps the sentiment that a good many Hong Kong people do not want Leung to stay on for another five years. Given Leung’s unpopularity, to get elected, a high-profile candidate like Wong has no need to care about more trivial matters like how many parking spaces are needed in Wan Chai or for how many quarters property rates should be waived in the budget.
Though he denied his plans were an attempt to retaliate against Leung, whose cabinet denied HKTV a free-to-air television licence in 2013, Wong is obviously banking on the public backlash against the controversial decision.
According to a survey by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme, conducted just days after the Executive Council rejected Hong Kong Television Network’s application in 2013, the support rate for Leung plunged by 8.4 percentage points to 22.4 per cent. It marked the biggest such drop since Leung took up the top job. The chief executive’s support rate has never surged above 30 per cent since then.
Exco’s decision sparked protests that drew many thousands of people who might not have come out to fight for universal suffrage but were upset by the limiting of choice in their television programmes and the perceived erosion of procedural justice.
Wong may not have an election machine, but his rivals should bear in mind that he visited about a third of the 3,100 registered voters in the information technology functional constituency during his failed bid in the 1998 Legco election. His nomination was declared invalid then because he held Canadian citizenship, which he gave up this year.
He also means business when he said he was more likely to contest Hong Kong Island because about 40 per cent of residents there had completed post-secondary education.
Wong’s high-profile campaign to deny Leung a second term may yet fail. The Communist Party tends to support whatever its enemies oppose. His move to unseat Leung may prompt Beijing to suspect subversive forces at work behind the scenes, which may reinforce Beijing’s determination to grant Leung a second term. Wong’s friendship with Occupy Central co-founder Dr Chan Kin-man, who served as an independent non-executive director at City Telecom, may also arouse suspicion from Beijing.
If Wong does become a legislator, he will need to show whether he is truly committed to the long and hard work of improving a city which he said has given him plenty of opportunities.
Gary Cheung is the Post’s political editor