Hong Kong top job hopeful John Tsang raises over HK$2 million in first day of crowdfunding

Former financial secretary calls flying start to donation drive ‘unexpected’ as he picks up endorsement from ex-deputy to rival Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2017, 11:14am

Chief executive contender John Tsang Chun-wah raised more than HK$2 million on the first day of a month-long crowdfunding drive in which he is reaching out to members of the public to help fund his campaign.

Tsang, a former Hong Kong finance chief, announced the drive hours before his closest rival, ex-chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, held a campaign rally. Candidates for the city’s top job are not directly elected but instead chosen by a 1,194-strong election committee. New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired High Court judge Woo Kwok-hing are also candidates.

Watch: Mak Chai-kwong on John Tsang

“I am not alone in this campaign,” Tsang said on Friday. “I invited all Hongkongers to come on board and work with me on this together.” Asked whether he lacked money to finance his campaign, he replied: “This is a significant gesture to show people’s support for me. But I’m also hoping for some substantial contributions to my campaign.”

At 2am on Saturday, the drive had gathered HK$2,467,145 from 10,761 donors. In a video posted on his Facebook page earlier, Tsang said the level of support was “unexpected” and reflected how much people shared his vision of rebuilding trust and rekindling hope in the city.

This is a significant gesture to show people’s support for me
John Tsang

He said he had chosen a crowdfunding platform run by a Hong Kong company to encourage the development of local start-ups. If there was any surplus, he said, it would be donated to charity. His office has declared an estimated campaign budget of HK$15.7 million, which is the maximum allowed.

News of the fundraising effort came soon after an ex-development secretary and former aide to Lam threw his support behind Tsang.

In a video posted on Tsang’s Facebook page, Mak Chai-kwong spoke of his friendship with the former financial secretary, focusing on how Tsang helped him when he was troubled by a court case in 2013.

At the time, Mak and another official had been convicted of defrauding the government of HK$700,000 in housing allowances. The case dated to the late 1980s, when the men cross-leased two flats in North Point while claiming allowances. The Court of Final Appeal eventually overturned the convictions.

“He saw me as a friend and not just a subordinate,” Mak said in the video. “In 2013, Mr Tsang called me, and he personally wrote a letter to the court [requesting mitigation of my sentence]. I didn’t ask him to do this, but he had paid heed to my case throughout. I remain very grateful to him to this day.”

Separately, Mak told newspaper AM730 that Tsang was the only government official to have written to the court on his behalf.

Handshake with Chinese president Xi Jinping among reasons John Tsang decided to run for Hong Kong leadership

Mak served as permanent secretary for development and worked directly under Lam when she was development minister. Their bureau reported to Tsang.

Lam recommended Mak as her successor when she became chief secretary. But he held the job just 12 days as graft-busters brought charges against him over the housing case.

Asked to comment on her former aide’s turning to Tsang, Lam said she would respect his decision and did not feel disappointed.