A lengthy interview of Financial Secretary John Tsang by China’s state media on Sunday is a signal Leung Chun-ying is not guaranteed a second term as chief executive, according to analysts.
The 2,300-character feature by state news agency Xinhua followed a highly symbolic handshake between President Xi Jinping and Tsang during a high-profile ceremony in Beijing last month.
The article, which came with a picture spread, was written by Ju Mengjun, executive co-chairman of Xinhua News Media Holdings Ltd.
The interview took place last week, according to Ming Pao Daily.
In it, Tsang is quoted as saying Hong Kong’s core industries will benefit from “One Belt, One Road”, a sweeping plan to create an Asia-Europe economic corridor inspired by the ancient Silk Road.
Tsang revealed plans to visit Eastern Europe including Hungary and Poland to help promote the program.
Visits to Central Asia are scheduled for next year.
Tsang said he suggested a Hong Kong office for the newly launched Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which could boost Hong Kong’s bond market.
Political commentator Johnny Lau said Beijing’s recent moves show there are choices for chief executive other than Leung.
Also, these could be an invitation for others to run for the top job, he said.
Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer of public administration in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Tsang’s popularity is soaring thanks to the Xi handshake.
He said Beijing is not playing down the symbolic gesture but using it to raise Tsang’s profile.
When state media could have interviewed Leung about the proposed economic belt, it picked the No. 3 man in his government, Choy said.
Legislator Chung Kwok-bun said Tsang’s handshake with Xi and the subsequent Xinhua interview are unusual.
He said Leung’s chances of winning a second term in 2017 are less than 50 percent because many of his election committee supporters in 2012 are unhappy with his performance.
Chung said Beijing’s moves are intended to put pressure on Leung and send a message it is weighing its options.
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