Elder statesman and vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body Tung Chee-hwa has warned that Beijing will not appoint the winner of next month’s chief executive election to the city’s top post if it deems him or her unacceptable. The Post understands that Tung, who was Hong Kong’s first chief executive, made the remarks on Friday during a closed-door meeting attended by more than 30 advisers to his non-governmental think tank, Our Hong Kong Foundation. Watch: Hong Kong’s leadership race explained in 60 seconds It remains unclear if Tung mentioned or was referring to John Tsang Chun-wah, the underdog who enjoys the biggest mass appeal among the four candidates in the leadership race. An adviser at the meeting said Tung did mention the former financial secretary while talking about the importance of the central government’s trust in the city’s leader. “In response to some advisers’ questions regarding the chief executive election, Tung said John Tsang’s capability can’t compare with Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s, and the central government doesn’t trust him,” the adviser said. Tung, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, did not elaborate on why Beijing was unwilling to trust Tsang. “In order to avoid the embarrassment [of Tsang winning the contest], the central government is making an all-out effort to help Carrie Lam’s campaign,” the adviser added. For his part, Tsang said there were “always rumours in every election”. “What you have heard are just rumours. I think you will be hearing more sorts of things as we approach the end of the nomination stage,” Tsang said after attending a separate function. Tung’s warning came days after Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya told a number of local politicians that Beijing’s top echelons had made a collective decision to back former chief secretary Lam in the election. Wang said Beijing’s trust in the next chief executive was the most important criterion among the four he had cited in a previous interview. Tai Hay-lap, another adviser to the foundation, confirmed that Tung had discussed issues relating to the chief executive race at the Friday meeting. “Mr Tung responded to some advisers’ concern about the central government’s appointment of the winner in the election,” he said. “But it’s inappropriate for me to reveal what Mr Tung said.” During a regular meeting of the foundation yesterday, Tung reiterated the next chief executive should be someone who could lead a proactive administration, according to Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah SC, a think tank adviser. “[Tung] mentioned that the leader should be able to bring Hongkongers hope and be trusted by the central government,” Cheng said. When asked if the former chief executive was referring to Lam, she said: “These are all objective criteria [spelled out by Tung] and he did not name anyone.” Nominations from teachers’ union push John Tsang closer to joining Hong Kong chief executive election In her campaign, Lam has been highlighting her proactive approach to governance, compared with arch-rival Tsang, who has argued that a heavily divided society needs a respite after the political turmoil and polarisation of the past few years. There would be by-election, there would be repercussions ... but I think Hong Kong should be strong enough to stand up to that. Regina Ip, chief executive contender A foundation spokeswoman said yesterday that Tung believed there was a need for a competent chief executive with a strong commitment to lead the city. “Mr Tung is of the view that a chief executive who enjoys the trust of the central government is a good thing because he or she can facilitate communication between the central government and Hong Kong,” the spokeswoman said. The winner of the March 26 election must have Beijing’s trust, as under Article 45 of the Basic Law the winning candidate must be appointed chief executive by the central government. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, another chief executive hopeful, warned that if Beijing refused to accept the election result and appoint the winner it could trigger a constitutional crisis in Hong Kong, although she expected the matter to be settled eventually. “There would be by-election, there would be repercussions ... but I think Hong Kong should be strong enough to stand up to that,” she said. “Of course, I do not want this scenario to happen.” Ip said Beijing should instead have more trust in the judgment of Election Committee members who are tasked to pick the right leader for Hong Kong. Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai urged the Registration and Electoral Office to launch an investigation into Tung’s remarks to ensure the election is fair. CY Leung’s HK$50 million UGL deal will face fresh scrutiny after ex-leader’s misconduct conviction, academic says Tung’s comments, Wu said, had reflected that the central government’ strong effort in lobbying votes for Lam. “As the former chief executive, Tung should clearly know that everybody should uphold the principle of ‘one country, two systems’,” Wu said. Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said it would be unacceptable for Beijing to refuse to appoint a duly-elected chief executive. “It would only anger Hongkongers even more. Even if Carrie Lam was elected like this, her mandate and authority would be greatly undermined, and she would be leading a lame-duck government on her first day in office,” Kwok said.