Thanks to retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, we have been spared for a while from more guessing game over the chief executive election.
At last, Hong Kong people have something more substantial to sink their teeth into — the first declared candidacy.
Still, Woo’s entry did not bring so much focus on himself as on certain undeclared aspirants — Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Financial Secretary John Tsang.
And now we have central banker Norman Chan reportedly interested in joining the race but more on that later.
There are increasing signs Leung may find himself being sidelined in favor of Tsang.
Observers say Leung missed his chance when he failed to secure Beijing’s blessing during the recent Communist Party plenum.
It’s quite unusual for Beijing to keep silent on its preferred candidate with the election only five months away.
For instance, Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang had won verbal support from Beijing at least one year before the election.
On Monday night, Leung abruptly canceled a trip to Beijing without giving any reasons.
Some have speculated that Leung had wanted to use the visit to make his case with senior leaders but the cancellation only sparked more rumors about his future.
Still, Leung is determined to keep himself in the pubic eye.
An upcoming article to be published in a pro-Beijing magazine this month will tout his chief achievements in the past four years — more homes and higher tax revenue.
Leung also uses his blog to elaborate his views.
In one post, he paraphrased the late US President Harry S. Truman (“The buck stops here”) to point out that he will not shirk from his responsibilities.
And recently, Leung urged his cabinet ministers to focus on “one thing at a time”, referring to preparations for the government’s policy address and budget early next year.
But all these moves have been rearguard action, pending a formal declaration from John Tsang of his prospective candidacy.
It’s unclear which way Beijing is leaning.
Beijing may not pick its preferred candidate at all, which would be in keeping with “one country, two systems”, but Hong Kong people are not naive to believe senior officials will not be involved one way or another.
While playing coy, Tsang is certainly not hiding him ambitions.
All he has said is that he will “consider anything” to contribute to Hong Kong but he has been furiously peppering his blog with what looks like election propaganda.
One article highlights his patriotism. His decision to return from the US is underscored as a show of love of country.
Tsang continues to punctuate his duties with a people-friendly approach that serves to counter any perceptions that he is all business as usual.
By contrast, Leung is unraveling at the seams — thanks to his failure to achieve teamwork.
Some key cabinet members — Tsang included — are refusing to endorse him. Among them are development chief Paul Chan and tech honcho Nicholas Yang, who arguably are hedging their bets on a potential new leader.
Meanwhile, on Monday pro-Beijing website hk01.com reported that Norman Chan had expressed interest in the job to a senior Beijing official.
That injects a new twist to the unfolding drama but it’s unlikely Beijing will want to have Tsang and Chan — both with financial backgrounds — compete for the top job.
It has to be one over the other. Stay tuned.
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