Thousands show support for John Tsang at campaign rally

Crowds gathered on Friday evening to show their support for the popular underdog in Hong Kong’s chief executive election race

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 8:43pm

Thousands of supporters of the popular underdog in the chief executive race, John Tsang Chun-wah, attended his election rally on Friday evening.

The crowd gathered in the open area at Edinburgh Place, and on the roof of a nearby two-storey car park.

As Tsang arrived at 6.30pm, the crowd gave the former minister a round of applause and cheered “Tsang Chun-wah, keep it up!”

Some 18,000 people watched the rally on his Facebook page, and more than 13,000 comments were left on the page.

Giving an emotional speech on an open-top double-decker bus at the end of the hour-long event, Tsang said: “We are here to show our love for this city of ours ... I hope the election committee members, who have the power to vote, would heed our call and heal the rift, and make Hong Kong the home we imagined it should be.”

In a reference to the Occupy protests in 2014, Tsang added: “Here we stand near Lung Wo Road and Connaught Road, Occupy happened near this place in more than two years ago, but I hope our rally today can give a new meaning to this place. I hope you will remembered that in March 24, 2017, we gathered here for the unity of Hong Kong.”

A spokesman for Tsang’s campaign office said there were “definitely” more than 2,000 people at the rally.

Film director Johnnie To, Tsang’s wife and his former political assistant Julian Law Wing-chung were the most prominent of the six guests who spoke at the rally.

In his speech, Law said: “A lot of people asked why so many are supporting John. Was it because his PR skills are good or because he knows how to use Facebook? But I think that instead of saying that Hong Kong people are supporting John Tsang, it’s better to say we are supporting the values that he represents: tolerance, belief in diversity, love for jokes, and the importance attached on systems.

“These values can help Hong Kong to return to its original best,” Law said.

After the rally, Tsang supporter William Wong, a 52-year-old taxi driver, said he was “very touched” by Tsang’s speech.

“I worked from 4.30am to 4.30pm, and came all the way from Tuen Mun to attend this occasion. It is because I love this place and I want to do some little thing to help Hong Kong,” Wong said.

“I believe that Hong Kong people has shown our solidarity and I believe this can change the result of this small-circle election ... It would be very stupid if Beijing do not support someone so popular but support someone unpopular instead.”

The rally was held as Tsang faced a fresh round of criticism from veteran Beijing-loyalist Lo Man-tuen, who accused him of being “an agent of [the] pan-democrats”, and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who slammed his former subordinate’s lack of concrete plans for housing.

Earlier on Friday, Tsang had said he expected up to 2,000 people to attend the rally, the fifth and final stop on his half-day bus parade on Hong Kong Island ahead of Sunday’s election.

John Tsang wins Hong Kong leadership battle ... at least on Facebook

As Tsang kicked off his tour at South Horizons, Ap Lei Chau in the afternoon, he met with residents for 45 minutes. The other stops were Quarry Bay, Causeway Bay and Theatre Lane, Central.

Those who attended the rally included some alumni from Tsang’s alma mater, La Salle College, who came to Central to support the contender.

One of them, Andrew Leung Chi-wung, 39, said: “We need someone who can unite Hong Kong, because we are only a small city with seven million people, why should we be divided into so many camps and fractions and fight among ourselves?” Leung asked.

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Tsang’s wife was the first person to speak at the rally. She said: “We’ve been married for almost 45 years, he’s a reliable husband, father and friend. I trust that he can also be a reliable leader and chief executive.”

Mrs Tsang’s speech was followed by speeches from several supporters.

The pan-democratic camp, which has 326 votes on the 1,194-member committee that will pick the city’s next leader on Sunday, has said a majority of its members will vote for Tsang. A candidate needs 601 votes to win.

Former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is widely seen as Beijing’s preferred choice for chief executive. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is the third contender in the race.

Critics had questioned if Tsang had achieved anything during his tenure as the city’s financial secretary.

But K Y Lee, a supporter of Tsang’s in her 20s, said: “Hong Kong has gone through a lot, including the financial tsunami, but we are still keeping our status as an international financial centre. This is not something we should take for granted.

“Tsang is someone who can give us hope, he’s a leader who can united people from across the political spectrum.”

Robert Ng, a retiree in his 60s, said he had been supporting Tsang since Carrie Lam announced her intention to run last December.

“Tsang shows his heart in working for Hong Kong, but all Lam showed was the power she has in hand.”

Sunny Ho, a middle aged man, rushed to the gathering after work. “I came here not only to support Tsang, but want to defend ‘one country, two systems’,” he said.

“I think Tsang truly works for Hong Kong people but Carrie Lam does not. It is not fair if Tsang, who gains majority support from the public, loses in the race. The past three chief executives won the race with the highest popularity. If not this time, it shows the disrespect of Beijing towards Hong Kong people. In my eyes, ‘one country, two systems’ would no longer exist.”