20 November 2018
John Tsang (left) and Leung Chun-ying are getting ready for the fight: the financial secretary poses for a selfie with photographers while the chief executive shows off his culinary skills. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook/John Tsang
John Tsang (left) and Leung Chun-ying are getting ready for the fight: the financial secretary poses for a selfie with photographers while the chief executive shows off his culinary skills. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook/John Tsang

CY Leung and John Tsang warm up for the race

Have no doubt about it, the chief executive election is no less interesting than the noisy scramble of some 150 feisty candidates for seats in the Legislative Council.

As next month’s Legco poll draws near, the skirmishes among the contestants will grow louder and perhaps get more brutal, amid cries of protest over the disqualification of several pro-independence candidates.

On the other hand, the race for the highest office in the city is a lot subtler but no less intense, and, of course, more significant.

So far everyone is playing coy. Incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says he will wait for the results of the Legco election before deciding whether to run for a second term. 

But last Friday, two officials announced they would consider running for the post – outgoing Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

That should have put CY Leung on a defensive stance, or at least get him to do a bit of shadow boxing to show potential rivals that he is ready for the fight.

Instead, he went to the kitchen and made some Shandong dumplings.

While chopping vegetables and mixing minced meat, Leung told Metro Daily in an interview that he welcomes competition – if he decides to run for another term.

Always careful in crafting his statements, Leung was determined to show that he can stand the heat in the kitchen.

He also demonstrated his passable cooking ability – and hearty appetite by later eating 20 dumplings.

Asked about his favorite food, Leung said he likes to eat everything, including lobster, which, he may or may not know, some naughty members of the media and netizens associate with his wife Regina who was once caught in a bright lobster-y red attire.

Of course, he didn’t pass the chance to air his grievances about how media have been treating him and his family.

“Some media chose to report that first without considering if it is true or not, and ignore the clarification,” he said.

But he said that he has grown accustomed to the ways of the press: “Politicians should get used to that because their lives will not only be under a magnifying glass but also under a microscope.”

It may seem like a safe, easy-going interview, but all along CY Leung was trying to rack up points as he projected himself as someone who is approachable and likeable, regardless of what the polls say, and not easily affected by adversity.

Meanwhile, John Tsang continued to make himself visible to the public, and smile a lot.

But when asked if he is ready to compete for the job with Leung, he merely said “no”.

Earlier this week, pro-Beijing legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is herself a CE wannabe but would probably settle for the Legco presidency if she wins the election, asked Tsang to leave his post if he is serious about running.

Tsang, of course, would not follow her advice; it’s too early for that and anything can happen in the next seven months.

The other Tsang – Jasper – had said he would consider running for the top job if no one else wanted to, but after hearing of John Tsang’s plans, he changed his tone and said he would support him.

That fueled speculation that the two Tsangs belong to the same corner of the ring and would back each other up should one of them decide to drop out of the race, such as when one is subjected to severely adverse publicity, like what happened to former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen in 2012.

Both Tsangs have apparently received the blessings of Liaison Office chief Wang Guangya, according to Next Magazine, an anti-CY Leung publication.

John Tsang will be a formidable adversary, being one of the most popular senior government officials, compared with Leung, whose popularity has drifted to an all-time low.

Speaking at an awards ceremony of the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association on Thursday, Tsang said he might not know every photographer by name but he felt so warm meeting them in many occasions.

He also acknowledged that local photographers are underpaid for their professional job, and, jesting, begged them to alway try to capture his handsome angle.

He spent the rest of the night granting selfie requests.

It’s not hard to see who has an edge in the coming race. Watch this space.

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EJ Insight writer

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