21 September 2019
John Tsang (right) may not be the anointed one, but Xi Jinping's handshake indicates the days of Tsang's boss, Leung Chun-ying (left), as chief executive are numbered. Photos: HKEJ
John Tsang (right) may not be the anointed one, but Xi Jinping's handshake indicates the days of Tsang's boss, Leung Chun-ying (left), as chief executive are numbered. Photos: HKEJ

Xi handshake with John Tsang no random event

Leaks of pro-government lawmakers’ WhatsApp messages to the media almost certainly indicate intense infighting within the pro-establishment camp.

It seems the competition to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, who will again be picked by a 1,200-strong Election Committee, has already begun.

It is possible that the people who orchestrated the leaks wanted to achieve two political goals: to vindicate “Uncle Fat” (rural boss and legislator Lau Wong-fat), who was initially blamed for the walkout, and to dent the reputation of Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who some consider the most likely person to replace Leung Chun-ying as chief executive.

As regards Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who pleaded for public forgiveness in tears on several occasions after the pro-Beijing lawmakers’ bungled walkout, she has long had her eye on Hong Kong’s top job but has now made herself a laughing stock through her poor acting skills.

She might have to wait until her next life to become a candidate favored by Beijing.

At this critical moment, amid the ongoing infighting in the pro-establishment camp, President Xi Jinping sparked a new round of speculation in Hong Kong by unexpectedly approaching Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and shaking his hand before the signing ceremony for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing at the end of last month.

As we all know, history repeats itself, and Xi’s handshake is a replica of then president Jiang Zemin’s handshake with Tung Chee-hwa 19 years ago.

One might recall that among the four candidates in the election for Hong Kong’s first chief executive, apart from the brilliant Peter Woo Kwong-ching, who joined the race of his own accord to show his loyalty to Beijing, Tung was recommended by Lu Ping, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Office, while Yang Ti-liang was recommended by Zhou Nan, director of the Hong Kong branch of the New China News Agency, then Beijing’s de facto liaison office in Hong Kong, and Simon Li Fook-sean was recommended by the indigenous communists in Hong Kong.

The late Wang Wenfang, the former top official of the New China News Agency in Hong Kong, said that at the beginning, both the pro-Beijing camp and the indigenous communists were under the impression that there would be a genuine election.

What they didn’t know, Wang said, is that Beijing had struck a secret deal with Washington and London, in which it was agreed that Tung would be the choice for the first chief executive of Hong Kong.

In fact, the pro-Beijing camp and the indigenous communists were so determined to win with their own candidates that Jiang had to send then foreign minister Qian Qishen to Hong Kong at the very last minute before the election to order them to fall into line and vote for Tung.

In the last election for chief executive, Xi also resorted to the trick of shaking hands, this time not with Leung himself but with the candidate’s major campaign donor Vincent Lo Hong-shui.

Even though Xi’s handshake with John Tsang does not necessarily mean he has been picked to be the next chief executive, it indicates at least that Leung has fallen out of Beijing’s favor and that it is likely he might not be allowed to serve out his term.

Those who are still working tirelessly to rally support for Leung’s re-election are either complete political idiots or deceiving themselves.

Given that, the pan-democrats should get their priorities right and continue to stand firm in their refusal to collaborate with Leung — who is desperate to hang on to his job and will go to any lengths to achieve that — or else Hong Kong’s misery will only deepen and reach a point of no return.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist