19 January 2019
If John Tsang decides to join the CE race, his strong western education background could pose a hurdle to winning Beijing's trust and approval. Photo: HKEJ.
If John Tsang decides to join the CE race, his strong western education background could pose a hurdle to winning Beijing's trust and approval. Photo: HKEJ.

John Tsang’s harmony first vs CY’s iron fist against separatism

Members of the so-called ABC camp (“Anyone But CY”) had plenty of reason to remain glum last week as there was lot of news that suggested that Leung Chun-ying may have gained the upper hand over the opposition camp and is one step closer to a second term.

First, there was the appointment of Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, chairman of the Liberal Party, as Executive Council member, a move that indicates that Leung may have won over the party, which is often considered Leung’s prime opponent within the pro-establishment camp.

Then there was news that Financial Secretary John Tsang failed to get the green light from Beijing to his CE bid during his recent visit to the mainland.

That said, we should bear in mind that Tsang is a push-over, given that he mounted a political counter-offensive shortly after he returned from Beijing.

During a radio interview, Tsang made it clear that he will definitely consider running for CE if it is in the best interests of Hong Kong, and that he is not afraid of the possible mudslinging or smear campaign against him during the course of the campaign.

The election is not about his own political career, but about future of the entire city, Tsang said, debunking the notion that he won’t run because he was unable to gain Beijing’s blessing.

Then Tsang wrote an article on his blog over the weekend arguing that restoring harmony to society is essential if Hong Kong has to make further social and economic progress in the days ahead.

Even though Tsang didn’t say explicitly that he is going to run, his article, which laid down his vision for Hong Kong, effectively amounts to a declaration of his candidacy. That came as a much-needed shot in the arm for his supporters.

If Tsang eventually decides to formally join the CE race, he should be prepared for a pretty bumpy ride on his bid for the city’s top job.

It is because several heavyweights in the traditional leftist camp have openly questioned his loyalty as well as his determination to suppress the rise of separatism in Hong Kong at all costs, the no.1 criterion for choosing the next leader of our city from Beijing’s perspective, given Tsang’s strong western education background.

Although Beijing is yet to make up its mind over the choice for the next CE, one thing is for certain: it will definitely work in Leung’s favor if he or his supporters can continue to keep the hype surrounding the separatism issue alive and robust.

However, as the old saying goes, a day is a long time in politics, and Tsang may still be able to turn the tables on his rival in the run-up to the election.

Let’s not forget what Leung did against his then rival Henry Tang in the 2012 CE race.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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