Posts Tagged ‘Woo Kwok-hing’

Hong Kong: Pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight political race

February 17, 2017

By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times

Holding over 25% of the votes, they aim to stop Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam

On March 26, Hong Kong’s next leader will be voted in by an Election Committee of 1,194 members. That only so few have a say reflects the failure of the 2014 Occupy Protests, where protesters demanded “one man, one vote” in choosing the chief executive.

But the experience has galvanised the pan-democratic, or pro-democracy camp, to be more pragmatic. Previously, they would cast blank votes to show that they do not support pro-establishment contenders. This time, they hold 326 votes – which is more than a quarter of the votes in the Election Committee – and are determined to make them count.

With the election featuring three pro-establishment figures – Mrs Carrie Lam, Mr John Tsang and Ms Regina Ip – for the first time, the pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight race.

Former security chief Ip, 66, who won the most votes for a female lawmaker in last September’s Legislative Council Election, was the first among the three to announce her candidacy, followed by Mr Tsang, 65, a former finance chief, and Mrs Lam, 59, a former chief secretary. Others include retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, and radical pan-democrat Leung Kwok Hung, 60.

To become the next chief executive, at least 601 votes are needed. To qualify, each contender needs at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing property tycoons, lawmakers as well as representatives of professional bodies and trade associations.

That’s the challenge for all but Mrs Lam, who has been endorsed by Beijing. She has reportedly secured 300 to 400 nominations while Mr Tsang has 24 nominations from pan-democrats.

Mr Tsang, who is leading in popularity polls, is seen as the strongest contender to Mrs Lam.

Some see Beijing’s move to name its preferred candidate as its bid to control the election, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chairman of the Beijing-backed Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies. And it is the pan-democrats’ aim to stop Beijing’s choice candidate from becoming the next chief executive.

“If John Tsang and Woo Kwok Hing are able to join the race, there may be unexpected results,” said Prof Lau, referring to the duo deemed acceptable by the pan-democrats. That is because the next leader would be picked by a secret ballot system, which could see Mrs Lam’s supporters switching sides.

Still, if Beijing had not declared its preferred candidate, it is unlikely that any contender would be able to win enough votes.

Last week, radical lawmaker Leung, better known as “Long Hair”, declared his intention to run and urged pan-democrats not to vote for the other four contenders who “do not represent (the) pro-democracy camp”.

But lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who is coordinating votes from the pan-democrats, told reporters the bloc is considering voting for Mr Tsang, Mr Woo and a third nominee picked from a mock online poll.

With nomination closing on March 1, pan-democrats should decide by next week, he said.

Critics have said Mr Leung’s intention to run has further split the pan-democratic camp already faced with the dilemma of whether to support Mr Tsang. Some worry about the possible backlash from endorsing someone who wants to enact the unpopular national security law.

But with Mr Tsang having a huge lead in popularity polls, even if he turns out to be like incumbent Leung Chun Ying, whose policies are unpopular with Hong Kongers, the pan-democrats could say that the candidate they have endorsed was the people’s choice.

Hong Kong: Tsang v Lam shaping up as elites v the people in Hong Kong chief executive election

January 16, 2017

John Tsang is seen as the friend of big business who takes a conservative view on spending public money, while Carrie Lam wants to tackle the wealth gap and bridge the social divide

By Gary Cheung
South China Morning Post
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah may share a similar career trajectory of having spent decades in government service, but they are hardly cut from the same ideological cloth.

If Tsang throws his hat into the ring in the coming days and runs for chief executive, their approaches to social issues, a fast emerging difference between the two, could be the defining feature of their election battle.

Tsang, who joined the government in 1982, is a firmer believer in “big market, small government” and favours minimal government intervention.

But Lam, who joined the administration two years earlier after graduating from the University of Hong Kong, has sought to highlight the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development, given the city’s widening income inequality and hefty fiscal surplus.

The difference in their governing philosophy has given rise to a perception that Tsang is backed by the city’s elites and favours the status quo, while Lam is supported by people who favour a proactive approach to tackling social ills. While they may naturally appeal to such constituencies, academics warn against portraying the pair as representing exclusively the interests of opposing social classes or blocs. The candidates themselves are going to some lengths not to be painted into one corner, with Lam stressing she is not a socialist and Tsang uploading pictures of himself bonding with ordinary people.

As financial secretary, Tsang managed large budget surpluses but was widely viewed as too conservative in how public money was spent. He had argued that the bigger the fiscal reserves the government amassed, the better.


 Carrie Lam a Catholic, has said God had called on her to run.

In 2013 Tsang appointed economic analysts and academics to study the impact of the ageing population on public finances, which are subject to land revenue fluctuations and rely increasingly on salaries and profits tax.

The report by the Long Term Fiscal Planning Working Group, released in March 2014, warned Hong Kong could be as heavily indebted as Greece – facing a structural deficit of HK$1.54 trillion by 2041 – if spending grew at the current pace and nothing was done to mitigate the impact of an ageing population.

At a closed-door seminar attended by senior government officials at the Science Park last Thursday, Lam spoke in stark contrast of the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development and an inclusive society.

In her swan-song speech as chief secretary, she said the ageing population should not be seen as a problem because “nowadays many elderly people are better educated and they may not rely on welfare payments in future”.

At a closed-door dinner on December 13, Lam, formerly chairwoman of the Commission on Poverty, described the fiscal planning report as unfair to the elderly.

Lam raised eyebrows last year by acknowledging three “mountains” or contentious issues the government aimed to conquer.

She identified these as the controversial management of public housing malls by The Link Reit, repeated MTR fare increases and the offsetting mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund, which allows bosses to settle severance or long-service payments through worker contributions.

The Link, which took over government-owned malls and markets in 2005, has been accused of adopting a business practice that pushes up rents and drives out small concerns.

Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun personally endorsed Tsang and said he was the business sector’s favourite for chief executive.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said it was natural that businesspeople and the wealthy were more receptive to Tsang’s pro-market approach.

But Lam was quick to make clear during the Science Park seminar that “I’m not a socialist” and that Hong Kong should not abandon capitalism.

Announcing her bid for chief executive on Thursday, she said: “I support the free-market economy but I agree there is a need to narrow the wealth gap and bridge the social divide. This is different from championing socialism.”

Tik Chi-yuen, convenor of the political group Third Side, appreciated Lam’s determination to get things done and help the underprivileged by going around bureaucratic rules. “John Tsang believes in ‘the less, the better’ and seldom took bold initiatives,” Tik said.

He suggested a substantial number of businesspeople favoured Tsang because they were unhappy with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s interventionist approach and measures such as imposing a heavy stamp duty to cool the property market.

But Dr Law Chi-kwong, who worked with Lam on the Commission on Poverty, pointed out that she was well connected to the business community and had worked with some second-generation tycoons.

Law said Lam also worked closely with Hopewell Holdings and Sino Land on the handling of hawkers next to The Avenue, a property project in Wan Chai.

Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University’s law school in Beijing, said Tsang’s governing philosophy was closer to that of the business sector while Lam’s proactive approach was more in line with the need for ­social development, such as ­narrowing the wealth gap.

“But their differences are only about concrete policies, and labels like who represents business interests do not help rational analysis on who is the better candidate for the top job,” Tian said.

While Tsang’s more conservative stance may sit well with the entrenched elite, Lam’s attempts to reach out to be more inclusive suggests an acknowledgement that change must take place in the social compact.

Tian said this approach sat better with Beijing, which trusted Lam more. She also had the advantage of close interaction with the central government on issues like political reform, he added.

“The central government’s expectation of a chief executive is higher than for a minister. It expects the chief executive to have the capability of handling complicated situations in Hong Kong and its relationship with the mainland and the international community,” Tian said.

Additional reporting by Raymond Cheng

Hong Kong finance chief John Tsang resigns — Expected to run for Chief Executive

December 12, 2016


HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s finance chief resigned Monday (Dec 12) ahead of what is widely expected to be a tilt at the city leadership.

John Tsang – nicknamed “Mr Pringles” by local media for his resemblance to the crisp brand’s mascot – is seen as a more moderate alternative to current leader Leung Chun-ying, who said Friday he would step down in July.

The city has become sharply divided under Leung, whose term has been marked by anti-Beijing protests. Opponents cast him as a puppet of the Chinese government squeezing the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms.

Tsang confirmed to reporters Monday evening that he had resigned after more than nine years, but stopped short of announcing he would run for the leadership.

“I shall think through this in the coming days and make an announcement,” he said.

He used the opportunity to thank the Chinese government for their “support and encouragement” as well as the people of Hong Kong.

Tsang recapped how he had witnessed the city returned to “our motherland” – referring to the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997.

He also said that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy had been “successfully implemented”.

The finance secretary’s resignation is being seen as a signal that he will stand in the leadership elections in March. Candidates are not allowed to hold a government office if they want to stand for chief executive.


Although Tsang has a better public image than Leung, he is still an establishment figure.

Pro-democracy campaigners have warned the next city leader will simply be another Beijing yes-man as the vote system is skewed.

The chief executive is chosen by an electoral committee made up of representatives of special interest groups, weighted towards Beijing.

Mass rallies in 2014 called for fully free leadership elections, but failed to win concessions on reform.

Special interest groups voted for members of the election committee on Sunday – of almost 1,200 only around a quarter come from the pro-democracy camp.

Speculation that Tsang would run for office intensified last year after China’s President Xi Jinping shook his hand during a meeting in Beijing.

There was another handshake between the two in September at the G20 in Hangzhou.

Former security minister and current senior lawmaker Regina Ip is also expected to announce her candidacy this week.

Ip is hated by the pro-democracy camp for supporting controversial anti-subversion law Article 23 when she was minister in 2003. It was dropped after hundreds of thousands of residents protested.

However, she has a strong support group in the establishment camp – in recent legislative elections Ip was one of the most popular candidates receiving 60,000 votes.

Current government number two Carrie Lam has also said she will consider running.

Only one candidate has declared they are running for the leadership so far – retired judge Woo Kwok-hing who has said he wants to help Hong Kong overcome its divisions.

Analysts say Tsang would stand the best chance.

“John Tsang is accepted by many pan-democratic supporters and the business circle in the pro-establishment camp,” said Edmund Cheng, professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Cheng added that Tsang had outranked all other potential candidates in opinion polls.