19 October 2018
Regina Ip, John Tsang and Carrie Lam (from left) are expected to slug it out for Hong Kong's top job in the March election. Photos: HKEJ
Regina Ip, John Tsang and Carrie Lam (from left) are expected to slug it out for Hong Kong's top job in the March election. Photos: HKEJ

All bets are off for CE race

This surely is going to be an interesting race.

First, the outcome has become rather unpredictable after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Friday he would not be seeking reelection.

Then we have Financial Secretary John Tsang announcing his resignation on Monday after 34 years of service, reportedly to give the chief executive election in March a go.

Let’s see how many more resignations will follow.

Recapping his nine-year run as finance minister, the popular Tsang made a point that Hong Kong has remained economically stable and financially healthy despite global economic turbulence and market volatility.

“As long as you keep going forward with me, why would I fear the new challenges ahead?” he wrote on his blog on Sunday, presaging his resignation and giving a hint of things to come.

Tsang has been waiting for the green light from Beijing. Meanwhile, he highlighted his equivocation when questioned by the media by borrowing a line from Shakespeare (“to run or not to run, that is the question”).

Whether or not he got Beijing’s blessing is not clear but Tsang was forced to quit because his reputed rivals are already warming up for the fight.

It is widely believed that executive councilor Regina Ip will announce her candidacy on Thursday.

The former security chief is a trusted lieutenant of Beijing and she has successfully transformed to politician in her second career.

However, she is not a popular choice.

To prove the point, pan-democrats have now changed their tune from “Anyone but CY” to “Anyone but R IP”.

The wide open field has given rise to a third candidate — Chief Secretary Carrie Lam who seems to be the favorite.

Lam said she was reconsidering her decision not to run in the wake of her boss’s resignation.

Lam is as popular as Tsang in public opinion polls and she seems to be as tough as Ip. Above all, Lam has the establishment support she inherited from her boss.

That, of course, cuts both ways as pointed out by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang who doubts if Lam would take all of Leung’s supporters who are abandoning ship.

It will be interesting to watch how the Carrie Lam-John Tsang rivalry will play out.

It’s doubtful whether Beijing would allow both of them to quit the government (which is why Tsang was running against time to make up his mind before any further instructions from the north.)

Lam is not on good terms with John Tsang, technically her subordinate.

In a recent closed-door meeting with media executives, Lam criticized Tsang for being “incapable”.

Ip also made a similar comment, saying Tsang has “casually done” his job.

Tsang is playing his cards close to his chest, perhaps mindful of his close relationship with Beijing’s monetary officials, after he was accused by Lam of not giving his financial budget draft on time.

Guess what? More interesting things are yet to come.

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EJ Insight writer

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