Pan-democrats missed chance by not joining election race, Hong Kong’s outgoing leader says

They should have fielded a candidate instead of voting for John Tsang, he says, while two US politicians accuse Beijing of interfering

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 10:02pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has attacked the pan-democrats for backing former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in the city’s leadership election instead of putting forward their own candidate.

His remarks came as two US politicians accused Beijing of interfering in the election and urged chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to defend the rights and democratic aspirations of Hong Kong people.

Watch: Carrie Lam wins the election

Lam, the former chief secretary who was widely seen as Beijing’s preferred choice, won the support of 777 members of the 1,194-strong Election Committee on Sunday, defeating Tsang, who was more popular with the public but got only 365 votes, largely from the pan-democrats. Leung won the election in 2012 with 689 votes.

Speaking before a meeting of his Executive Council on Tuesday, Leung said 777 was a high number, as obtaining more than half of the votes was not easy in any competitive election.

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“The pan-democrats took more than 300 seats but did not co-ordinate to send a representative to run. I think they have missed a chance,” Leung said, adding that the opposition camp had already missed the opportunity to let Hongkongers have “one man, one vote” by rejecting a proposal for political reform in 2015 based on Beijing’s framework.

He said relying only on the pro-government camp to contest the race was not the proper way for the city’s democratic development.

“They have more than 320 votes this time but have no one joining the race. Does it mean John Tsang Chun-wah is their representative?” Leung said.

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Leung also took aim at the pan-democrats on the eve of the election, saying that they supported the candidate with the highest popularity this time but did not vote for him when he was the more popular candidate five years ago.

Veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun described Leung’s remarks as “pointless”. “Leung has to keep provoking a quarrel to give him a sense of identity,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Christopher Smith, issued a critical statement on the election.

“Beijing’s clear interference in these elections is yet another example of a precipitous erosion in Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy ... If Hong Kong is to become just another mainland Chinese city under the new chief executive’s leadership, we will have to reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under US law, ” they warned.

Rubio introduced the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to Congress in February, which would require the US government to identify persons responsible for the surveillance, abduction or detention of booksellers and journalists in Hong Kong, then act accordingly such as freezing their assets in the US or denying them visas.