‘Let’s wait and see’: Legislative Council president keeps Hong Kong guessing on possible run for city’s top job

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing refuses to rule out running for chief executive but says he is flattered by support from those urging him to stand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 8:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 9:48am

Beijing will allow at least two pro-establishment candidates, including a top minister in the current administration, to run in the chief executive ­election next March, according to the Legislative Council president.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who will retire after the Legco term expires in September, does not rule out running for the top job.

“Let’s wait and see,” Tsang told the Post on Monday. “I am fed up with answering this question again and again ... But I am sober enough to understand my limitations.”

Tsang has repeatedly said he will not stand for the city’s top job as he will be 70 next May. But recalling how many people had encouraged him to step up over the past few years, he said: “I am flattered.”

In 2012, Executive Council ex-convenor Leung Chun-ying defeated former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen to secure the city’s top job by garnering 689 votes from a 1,200-strong election committee. Leung told the Post last week he would wait until after September to decide whether to seek a second term.

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His top ministers – Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah – may be possible challengers, according to some commentators.

But others believe with the pro-establishment camp deeply divided by the bitter leadership race in 2012, Beijing is unlikely to allow two loyalist heavyweights to engage in another dogfight next year.

The Legco president, who decided against running the last time, just weeks before the chief executive election was held in March 2012, said he had no doubt there would be “a genuine competition” next year.

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“The competitor will not be reliant on pan-democrats’ support ... but someone supported by the pro-establishment camp and trusted by the central government,” he said.

“This must be the case; I cannot see any other possibility.”

Tsang suggested even a competition that involved pointing out each other’s weaknesses and mistakes would not necessarily divide the ­pro-establishment camp unless it descended into mud-slinging “to expose each other’s scandals”.

“Many people have said the central government would not want two ministers to compete with the incumbent chief executive, and it will be one minister at most, [otherwise] there will be a bigger impact on the city’s governance,” Tsang said.

He jokingly said he would follow Lam’s wisdom to “wait and see” whether to join in.