21 April 2019
Pan-democrats flashed their strength in their traditional stronghold subsectors such as social welfare. Photo: HKEJ
Pan-democrats flashed their strength in their traditional stronghold subsectors such as social welfare. Photo: HKEJ

How professionals can play kingmaker in CE race

A day after pan-democrats won 325 seats in the subsector election for the Election Committee, Financial Secretary John Tsang announced his resignation from the government.

The pan-democrats’ strong gains, plus the high turnout rate of 46 percent, sent a clear signal to Beijing and to the pro-establishment camp that Hong Kong professionals are determined to play a critical role in the upcoming chief executive election.

With their decisive showing, the anti-establishment camp is ready for the next round of the contest and should soon be coalescing around their preferred candidate.

Political observers are speculating that the pro-democracy camp could pick Tsang over pro-Beijing loyalists such as lawmaker Regina Ip and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.

Tsang continues to outshine his potential rivals in public opinion polls, making him the most popular senior government official.

In addition, Tsang has the support of the silent majority in the professional community having largely kept his distance from radical pan-democrats and pro-independence advocates.

Still, he stumbled when he refused to take questions from four lawmakers who are the subject of a legal challenge regarding their legitimacy only to be overruled by the government.

That aside, Tsang’s image as someone not too beholden to Beijing should go down well with Hong Kong people although not with Beijing loyalists. 

The election results showed that democrats swept their traditional stronghold subsectors, such as legal, social welfare, information technology and higher education.

More surprising victories came in the health services and medical fields. Five years ago, pro-democracy candidates got only three out of 60 seats but this year all their 49 candidates got elected.

The strong performance by the the opposition camp in the subsector election should be a wake-up call for potential candidates like Tsang and former security minister Regina Ip.

Both cannot afford to ignore the voice of the professional sector. This presents a clear opportunity to the professionals to work together and deal with each candidate in exchange for friendlier policies.

Some may condemn such give-and-take as a kind of political wheeling and dealing but politics would not be an art of the compromise without it.

For example, democrats could insist on restarting political reform talks with Beijing.

Even if some radical democrats argue that Hong Kong people should oppose the small-circle election to pick their next leader, they also need to be realistic.

The Election Committee members, especially those from the opposition, should adopt the best alternative approach to pick the next chief executive.

The “invalid vote” strategy will only give the traditional pro-Beijing camp a chance to gain ground, setting the stage for a Beijing loyalist to take charge of Hong Kong for the next five years.

That could be no different from the past four.

The central government’s decision to allow Leung not to seek reelection was a smart move to win back the support of Hong Kong people after the 2014 protests for universal suffrage.

Beijing did not ease its grip on Hong Kong but its move on Leung could help rebuild harmony in society.

Meanwhile, now that opposition forces have more than 300 votes on the committee, they can nominate two candidates if they bundle their votes together.

Or they can partner with some pro-establishment members to nominate a candidate that can garner the backing of more tha 600 committee members.

They could be an effective kingmaker.

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EJ Insight writer

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