Regina Ip says Beijing offered her top jobs to quit Hong Kong leadership race

Pro-establishment lawmaker also criticises her election rival Carrie Lam, saying former chief secretary has served too long in the administration

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 11:52am

Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has spoken out against “insecure” leaders in Beijing, saying she has rejected ­offers of top appointments to ­national bodies in exchange for dropping out of Hong Kong’s leadership race.

The pro-establishment lawmaker also criticised her election rival, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, describing her as “Regina Ip” from a decade ago who thought everything she did was right.

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“[Lam] was like what I was some 10 years ago,” Ip said in an interview with Cable TV, referring to her own deep unpopularity when she stepped down as security chief in 2003.

“[She] always fights with those who hold different opinions as she has spent too long in the administration and hears only one side of voices – just like how I was before.”

Ip, who has secured only about 20 votes so far from the Election Committee that will pick the city’s leader next month, is facing an uphill battle to get the 150 nominations required by next Wednesday to enter the race. Her situation contrasts sharply with that of Lam, once Ip’s subordinate, and now the leading contender who already has double the nominations she needs.

The underdog said it was rare for Beijing to express its strong preference for a candidate before the nomination stage, seeing it as a screening out of other aspirants.

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“The central government is ... insecure,” Ip said, suggesting Beijing was worried she would take votes away from Lam.

“I think it would bring no good to the governance of the next administration if it is perceived that a candidate could only win the race because of the strong backing from the central government.”

Ip also said someone claiming to have close relations with Beijing had offered to compensate her if she quit the race.

“They said I do not necessarily need to stay in Hong Kong if I want to serve the city as they could offer me posts at the National People’s Congress or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference ... even very top positions. “But I want no consolation prize.”

I want no consolation prize
Regina Ip, chief executive aspirant

In December, Ip said Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, had once asked her to be the Legislative Council president. She dismissed it as a signal from Beijing that she was not the favoured candidate, she said at the time.

The New People’s Party chief also hit out at Lam’s leadership style, criticising her former colleague for distancing herself earlier from the government’s unpopular education policy and arguing that the chief secretary was not the boss of all ministers. Ip disagreed: “It would greatly affect the morale of subordinates if the boss bears no responsibility.”

Ip, who will be 71 during the next city leadership election in 2022, did not rule out a comeback.