Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing’s announcement of his bid last week finally raised the curtain on the 2017 chief executive race, prompting other hopefuls such as former Legco president Jasper Tsang and former security chief Regina Ip to express their interest in running for the top job.
Compared with other front runners, it appears that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who everybody knows is determined to seek a second term, is the most anxious. He is still waiting for the green light from Beijing.
Woo’s sudden announcement of his candidacy has electrified many people who are badly hoping for a new chief executive.
And some suspect that Woo could have been urged by Leung’s opponents, or the so-called ABC (Anyone But CY) camp, into running against him.
I do not think judge Woo has been persuaded by anyone.
Rather, he was driven by his own righteous and selfless indignation at the polarization and misery of Hong Kong society under Leung Chun-ying and wanted to bring about change.
Unfortunately, although Woo’s criticism of the administration at his press conference hit the nail on the head and resonated with the majority of the public, his sympathetic stance toward the Occupy Central movement and the June 4 incident has wiped him off Beijing’s list of candidates.
However, despite the fact that Woo is unlikely to gain Beijing’s blessing, his sudden emergence as a candidate did come as a piece of good news for pan-democrats. They no longer have to worry about who to send to run against Leung.
Judge Woo, a highly respected public figure who has vowed to uphold the rule of law, relaunch political reform and open up a constructive dialogue with pro-independence groups, is a perfect choice for them.
Based on experience in past elections and the framework laid down by the so-called “831 resolution” of the National People’s Congress, it could be inferred that Beijing would not allow more than three candidates.
Judge Woo should have no difficulty getting the endorsement of at least 150 members of the Election Committee and officially entering the race.
It is likely that Beijing will give the green light to two pro-establishment candidates whom it can trust.
I believe Beijing has already chosen the first one, and that person is Financial Secretary John Tsang.
I do not have any insider information but based on my 30-year experience as a public servant and Tsang’s recent statements, I am quite convinced that he has already received the seal of approval from the central government.
Moreover, Leung’s recent remarks and statements on his blog are a clear sign that John Tsang is going to run against him.
That Leung was recently claiming credit for his courage, unwavering loyalty to Beijing and commitment to Hong Kong on his blog amounted to a public statement that he is the only person capable of leading Hong Kong and defending Beijing’s sovereignty.
And the recent political chaos and controversy arising from the oath-taking saga provoked by the Youngspiration duo as well as the paralysis of our legislature work in Leung’s favor and help convince Beijing that he is the only person they can count on to fight separatism.
Leung’s biggest advantage over his competitors is probably his rock-solid loyalty to Beijing that has stood the test of time. He is quite likely to get the green light from Beijing to seek a second term.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov.2
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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