Meet Macau’s new chief executive Ho Iat-seng: a media-shy Beijing loyalist with deep mainland ties
- Ho takes charge at a challenging time for the city, amid the ongoing US-China trade war and a looming slowdown in neighbouring Hong Kong
- Despite keeping a low profile, his name had been floated numerous times over the past few years as a potential candidate for the top job
Despite his low profile, Ho’s name had been floated numerous times in the city’s social circles over the past few years as a potential candidate for chief executive.
He was chosen as the new leader of one of the world’s wealthiest cities by a 400-member electoral college about five months after he first announced he would run for the top job.
“I expect him to be more proactive and forward-looking … the population is concerned about a number of livelihood issues, such as housing and transport,” Lo said. “Ho Iat-seng needs to be more innovative and determined.”
“Youth policies will be important, like creating more job opportunities and improving the education system,” Lo said. “Macau needs to change the dependency mentality towards China and people need tools to become more competitive.”
Ho’s government will also decide what will happen to the city’s six casino operators as their licences begin to expire in the coming few years.
“It’s one of the biggest and most complex issues the chief executive will have to deal with, because there are many stakeholders involved,” said Glenn McCartney, associate dean of the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Macau. “He will have to determine what sort of landscape he wants. But, perhaps most importantly, he will have to guarantee that this re-tendering process won’t bring any instability.”
Ho’s name had cropped up as a potential candidate before the previous elections for chief executive in 2009, but the 62-year-old only revealed his intention to run in April this year.
Much like the city’s previous leaders, he hails from a prominent family with wide industrial and business ties. His late father, Ho Tin, was a well-regarded industrialist who originally came from Zhejiang province and set up a company in Macau in 1956.
Ho later became the managing director of his family’s company, Ho Tin Industries, which manufactures a number of products, including household and electronic appliances.
Despite having been born in Macau, Ho’s connection to the mainland was not lost on him.
He studied electronic engineering and economics at Zhejiang University and was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Zhejiang province for about two decades. Ho also served as a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
In Macau, Ho was a member of the Executive Council, which advises the city’s leader, as well as being a lawmaker and both vice-president and then president of the legislative assembly.
Lawyer Vong Hin-fai, who served in the legislature while Ho was its president, described him as “a capable, responsible and intelligent man”.
“I have a lot of respect for him and I think he has all the skills to do a good job,” Vong said.
Some have noted Ho’s lack of experience in the administrative and public services, as his professional background has mostly been focused on business and legislative works.
But Larry So Man-yum, a Macau-based political commentator, previously told the Post this “can be positive for the community” because “businesspeople tend to look more at the results and less at the process”.
Most agree that Ho’s family background and ties to Beijing made him the top choice for the job.
“Ho is a choice that pleases Macau’s most powerful families as well as Beijing … these are critical aspects,” Leung, the social affairs commentator, said. “Macau is a small place, so personal connections are important. But you definitely also need to have the trust of Beijing.”