20 February 2019
Asked if he would join the race for the next chief executive, former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung (left) always says he is still “waiting for the instruction of God”. Photo: HKEJ
Asked if he would join the race for the next chief executive, former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung (left) always says he is still “waiting for the instruction of God”. Photo: HKEJ

Six CE hopefuls: What are their chances of winning?

In June I wrote an article on the chances of winning of three CE hopefuls: Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Four months have passed and quite a lot of new developments have happened.

So let me go into more details on the chances of the trio, and talk about the odds of three other hopefuls.

As far as former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung is concerned, he has never said he would run, nor has he ever said he wouldn’t either.

As he has always put it, he is still “waiting for the instruction of God”.

Seriously, unless John Tsang’s campaign was derailed by some unexpected circumstances, it is rather unlikely that Antony Leung would throw his hat into the ring.

However, I do believe Antony Leung is likely to be appointed to key official positions such as member of the Executive Council or chairperson of consultation committees on finance and technology by the next chief executive.

Let’s move on to another hopeful, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

Although pushing 70, Jasper Tsang remains unrivalled in terms of seniority, political experience, profundity and resourcefulness in the pro-establishment camp.

At one point many believed John Tsang as the new chief executive and Jasper Tsang as the convenor of the Executive Council would be the best solution to our woes.

Jasper Tsang has never ruled out the possibility that he would join the race, and made it clear that he would do so if no one was going to challenge CY Leung.

As a leftist stalwart who has never publicly denied being a Communist Party member, and who is among the handful of political leaders in Hong Kong acceptable to the left, the center and the right, Jasper Tsang is definitely a viable alternative to CY Leung as chief executive.

John Tsang, on the other hand, made quite an impression on the public when he said he would consider running for CE if that is a viable way in which he could contribute to Hong Kong.

But he seems to be keeping a low profile lately.

If Tsang was really determined to run, he should have resigned and announced his candidacy after the Legco election in September so he would have sufficient time to put together his election platform, organize his campaign and seek support from members of the Election Committee.

However, he hasn’t done so. The probable reason is that Beijing itself hasn’t made up its mind on whether or not to allow CY Leung to have a second term.

As far as Leung is concerned, I can’t think of any overriding reason why he cannot be replaced, even though he is undoubtedly still a front-runner in the CE race.

Although his absolute and unquestioning loyalty is definitely a merit in the eyes of Beijing, his being a hothead, his heavy-handedness and his confrontational style of governance have also caused a lot of unnecessary trouble for his Beijing bosses.

Besides, he has proven not that skillful and effective in carrying out Beijing’s orders, and that makes him far from being irreplaceable.

Recently there has been talk that Beijing may make its final decision on the next CE after the sixth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party later this month.

However, even if Leung is eventually denied re-election by Beijing, it doesn’t necessarily mean John Tsang will automatically get the seal of approval, because there is still another strong contender out there – Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.

Lam has outdone John Tsang when it comes to showing unwavering loyalty to Beijing, as indicated in the Election Affairs Commission’s decision to bar pro-independence candidates from running for Legco.

And in terms of skillfulness and efficiency in executing Beijing’s orders, Lam also outdid her boss.

In other words, if CY Leung isn’t going to run, Carrie Lam and John Tsang would be neck-and-neck in the race for the next CE.

Last but not least, I won’t be surprised if lawmaker and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is given the greenlight to run.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 12.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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