Regina Ip ‘squeezed out’ of Hong Kong chief executive race

Pro-establishment candidate blames election system after falling far short of 150 nominations needed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 11:23pm

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee pulled out of Hong Kong’s chief executive race on Wednesday, declaring she had been “squeezed out” of a “restrictive” electoral system with only 1,194 voters tasked to pick the city’s next leader.

The New People’s Party chairwoman, who was similarly forced to drop her first bid for the top job in 2012 because of insufficient support, announced her failure to secure the 150 nominations required to formally qualify for the race, just hours before the deadline to hand them in.

Watch: Regina Ip withdraws from Hong Kong leadership contest

She conceded the number of entry tickets she had secured during her 77-day campaign was “far behind what was needed”.

“I lagged behind because I am an independent,” she said. “I hoped to be an open-minded pro-establishment candidate ... who could win support across the spectrum. It is difficult, but I have no regrets.”

Ip, 66, who announced her intention to run on December 15, blamed it on the election system.

“I failed to get in again because of the limitation of our system. Our Election Committee has only 1,194 votes,” she said. “So when you have four candidates – basically all from the pro-establishment camp – competing, I have been squeezed out.”

Carrie Lam qualifies for Hong Kong leadership race just short of winning post

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, seen as Beijing’s favoured candidate, entered the race with 580 nominations – nearly four times the threshold requirement. She was joined by former finance minister John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who bagged 165 and 180 votes respectively.

However, Ip stopped short of saying she had been treated unfairly, despite reports that central government officials had actively canvassed votes for Lam behind the scenes.

On her future relations with Beijing’s liaison office, the lawmaker said she had many friends and acquaintances there and predicted her working relationship would continue.

But, she noted: “I am not their subordinate. I am an elected public representative. I think relations are based on mutual respect. If you respect me, I will respect you. Don’t you think?”

Ip said she had hoped for a dramatic reversal of fortune that never materialised.

“I didn’t bag any extra votes and even lost some in the past few days,” she recalled, noting four of her nominators had ditched her at the last minute to back Lam.

She refused to reveal how many nominations she had secured, only saying she had won support from the business and religious sector as well as a pan-democrat. It was assumed she had secured some 20 nominations, mostly from her own party members and advisers.

Ip, who joined the government in 1975, has transformed herself from a once disliked minister into one of Hong Kong’s most popular female politicians.

In 2003, she tried to push through national security legislation, despite widespread public suspicion and opposition. After half a million people took to the streets in protest, Ip quit the government and went to further her studies at Stanford University.

She returned to Hong Kong in 2006 to set up her think tank, the Savantas Policy Institute, which was seen as a platform to build up her political support base. She won a seat in the legislature in the 2008 election and in 2011 founded the New People’s Party.

Ip did not rule out a comeback in the 2022 chief executive election. Asked if she would join a future cabinet, she replied: “I enjoy being a popularly elected lawmaker more.”