My Take

Tsang vs Tsang: chief executive election starting to take shape

Financial secretary John Tsang and Legco president Jasper Tsang have both said they may challenge incumbent Leung Chun-ying in next year’s poll

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 2:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 2:40am

Things could be a lot worse than having Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, John Tsang Chun-wah and Leung Chun-ying slugging it out to be the next chief executive.

The line-up is possibly the best we can hope for under our current political predicament. Of course, the two Tsangs have yet to make a definite commitment to run. But their latest hint is about as strong as any CE-wannabe can make at the moment.

Both Tsangs are far more popular than Leung. John Tsang has consistently scored around a 60 per cent approval rating from periodic surveys by the University of Hong Kong, which is about 20 percentage points ahead of his boss.

Double trouble for CY Leung? John Tsang announces possible bid for Hong Kong’s top job soon after Jasper Tsang does the same

Whatever you think about his budget philosophy, he has built up an image of the “good localist” for himself, thereby contrasting with the perceived “mainland comes first” priority of Leung. He has even called moderate “localism”, however defined, a good thing.

Of course, there is his public financing. His budget giveaways have disproportionately benefited the wealthy and the propertied classes. He may not hate the poor like his former boss Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, but he does hate spending on social welfare, which has almost doubled under Leung. Indeed, he seems to hate incurring new recurrent spending on anything such as education, health care or any human services that may improve quality of life.

If he wants to play the leader, he will have to prove he has a vision for a better Hong Kong other than blindly continuing the government’s wealth accumulation and surpluses at the expense of Hong Kong people’s welfare. But John Tsang is not an unintelligent man, so he may be able to reprioritise as chief executive rather than finance minister.

Who stands to gain the most from Jasper Tsang and John Tsang entering Hong Kong’s chief executive race?

Meanwhile, as president of the Legislative Council, Jasper Tsang has earned the respect of pan-democratic lawmakers. If nothing else, he had repeatedly allowed filibustering by a few pan-democrats to continue and been critical of Leung’s governing style. He is probably the most moderate of the Beijing loyalists, one of the few with whom pan-democratic lawmakers can do business.

A government under Jasper Tsang would likely see an improvement in the relationship between the legislative and executive branches, at least at the beginning. As a former leftist and educator, he would hopefully pursue more people-friendly policies in education and human services than John Tsang.