Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, former president of the Legislative Council, said he believes there are at least four people interested in running for Hong Kong’s top job in the chief executive election next year, and that more candidates may join the fray as the nomination period approaches.
In an exclusive interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Tsang said that apart from retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who formally announced last week that he will join the race, it looks likely that the city’s incumbent leader, Leung Chun-ying, will be a contender in the 2017 battle.
While Leung will seek a second term, it appears he will face a challenge from two other prominent personalities — Financial Secretary John Tsang and New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip, the former Legco chief said on Monday.
Information gathered by him suggests that some more names could also throw their hat into the ring, he added.
From Beijing’s perspective, the ideal number in the final list should be no more than three, Jaspar Tsang said.
As of now, there has been no clear message as who the central government intends to back for the chief executive contest, he said, adding that there is no clarity on Beijing’s stance with regard to a potential re-election bid by Leung.
The silence is understandable as Beijing fears that if it makes its position known, it will draw criticism for trying to interfere with the Hong Kong election, he said.
That said, the former Legco chief believes that Beijing will not keep silent for too long since the candidates must be first approved by a 1,200-member election committee, whose members are to be elected in December, before one of the contenders is picked for the top job on March 26.
According to Jaspar Tsang, Beijing would want no more than two candidates from the establishment camp, to prevent cannibalization of votes from pro-Beijing members in the nominating panel, if there are one or more pro-democracy candidates.
However, two or more pro-establishment candidates would be fine if there is no candidate from the pro-democracy camp.
Referring to comments last week by Woo who said he cannot understand why those interested in the top job are yet to openly declare their candidacy, Tsang said the contenders have some issues to deal with.
John Tsang, for instance, faces a responsibility issue if he really decides to resign from his current post and run for the top job, the former Legco chief said, adding that the finance chief may be keeping his cards close to his chest pending a reply from Beijing.
Jaspar Tsang has said in the past that he would consider running for the election himself in order to spur competition, but he seems to have changed his mind.
He said recently that he would rather provide assistance to a candidate who he deems fit for the top job. A decision will be made only when he completes an assessment of the political ideas and campaign platforms of all the candidates.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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