My Take

Pan-dems may win the battle but not the war

The pan-dems and other friendlies control enough Election Committee votes to swing the result of the chief executive race in favour of John Tsang if there is a split in the pro-establishment camp. But it’s not at all obvious that Tsang is any better than Carrie Lam for the top job

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 12:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 12:58am

Hours after Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced her resignation as chief secretary and her intention to run for the city’s top job, pan-democrats said they could not support her.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Lam would just continue the misguided policies and hated practices of the Leung Chun-ying administration. One presumes he speaks for more than just his party, but many pan-democrats outside of it, too. Fellow Democrat James To Kun-sun, the most senior member of the Legislative Council, and Tanya Chan Suk-chong of the Civic Party have echoed similar views.

If so, they may be rallying behind John Tsang Chun-wah, Lam’s potential rival who has earlier resigned as financial secretary.

Presumably, the pan-dems consider Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a declared candidate, worse than Leung; some have described her as Ms Article 23, a reference to the Basic Law’s provision for laws against subversion, sedition and treason. It would be a waste of time for those who sit on the Election Committee for the chief executive to vote for retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, generally considered the darker-than-dark horse in the race.

John Tsang welcomes leadership contest against Carrie Lam

Lam is believed to be Beijing’s preferred choice. If so, the prestige and power of the central government will again be challenged.

The pan-dems and other friendlies control a third of the votes on the Election Committee, not enough for them to be kingmakers, but more than sufficient to swing the result in favour of Tsang if there is a split – which is not unlikely – within the pro-establishment camp.

Of course, pan-dems may win this battle, but not the war. It’s not at all obvious that the more jovial Tsang is any better than Lam for the job. If Lam is considered the female CY, then John Tsang is Donald Tsang 2.0.

Both Tsangs share the same view that government surpluses are there to accumulate, not to spend on people’s welfare or improvement in living standards. Both despise the poor and the ageing, whose welfare spending by the government is considered a worsening drain on the public coffers.

But circumstances change. People change and policies have to change, too. There could be worse choices than John and Carrie. If nothing else, both are untainted by corruption scandals or suspicions. That’s a low standard, but it counts for something these days.