Chief Executive Election

Hong Kong chief executive candidate John Tsang holds outdoor rally as Carrie Lam bags pro-Beijing pledges

Former financial secretary expresses hope that people will remember they gathered ‘for the unity of Hong Kong’; Carrie Lam says she will not hold high-profile event

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 11:38am

Two days before polling day, chief executive underdog John Tsang Chun-wah drew thousands of supporters to his rally in Central, as he battled a fresh round of criticism that he lacked Beijing’s trust.

Front runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, meanwhile, said she would not hold a high-profile rally as she received pledges of support from several pro-Beijing blocs yesterday.

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Giving an emotional speech on an open-top bus at the end of the hour-long rally at Edinburgh Place on Friday night, Tsang said: “Most of you here don’t have votes, but still I yearn for your support. Without your support, how would there be any meaning even if I win all Election Committee votes?”

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Tsang is expected to secure about 300 votes from pan-democrats on the 1,194-member Election Committee, which is dominated by pro-Beijing supporters. A candidate needs 601 votes to win in Sunday’s poll.

Recalling the Occupy protests in 2014, the former financial secretary said: “Here we stand near Lung Wo Road and Connaught Road. Occupy happened near us over two years ago. But I hope our rally today can give a new meaning to this place.”

He hoped people would remember they gathered there last night “for the unity of Hong Kong”.

Police estimated the turnout to be 3,500. The live feed of the rally on Tsang’s Facebook page drew 449,000 views by midnight and some 18,700 comments.

The rally capped Tsang’s half-day bus tour around Hong Kong Island.

Tsang was the first pro-establishment chief executive candidate to host an outdoor rally since his former boss, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, held one at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai in 2007.

Excited supporters chanted “John Tsang, elected!” and “Vote for No 1 if Hong Kong is to win!”

Among those present was a retired judicial worker surnamed Chan, who said Tsang would do a better job than Lam in slowing down the “mainlandisation” of the city.

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“Carrie Lam is just like Leung Chun-ying. Both do not like to listen to others and lean on Beijing’s liaison office. They are too loyal to the Communist Party at the expense of Hongkongers’ interest.”

Taxi driver William Wong, 52, came from Tuen Mun after working a 12-hour shift that began at 4.30am. “I believe that Hong Kong people have shown our solidarity and I believe this can change the result of this small-circle election,” Wong said. “It would be very stupid if Beijing does not support someone so popular, but someone unpopular instead.”

Film director Johnnie To, Tsang’s wife and his former political assistant Julian Law Wing-chung were among six guests who spoke at the rally, which did not feature any politicians.

But it was not all bouquets for Tsang, as Friday began with brickbats from veteran Beijing-loyalist Lo Man-tuen, who penned a 6,800-word newspaper article declaring he did not have Beijing’s trust as he lacked commitment in opposing Occupy, and from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who slammed him for lacking concrete plans for housing. Tsang dismissed Lo’s accusations as groundless.

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Leung also questioned the pan-democrats’ decision to vote for Tsang on Sunday, pointing out they did not vote for him five years ago – despite his popularity – disputing their claim they only wanted someone who topped the opinion polls.

Lam, meanwhile,said she would not have any high-profile publicity before the election. “My team and I have opted for a practical style for publicity throughout my campaign, which also fits my character,” she said.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the Federation of Trade Unions, the agriculture and fisheries sub-sector and 14 out of the 15 members in the performing arts sub-group in the Election Committee, pledged to vote for Lam. They hold about 230 votes.