In view of Leung Chun-ying’s withdrawal from next year’s chief executive election 10 days ago, perhaps it is logical to infer that not only has Leung fallen out of favor with Beijing but former Financial Secretary John Tsang may also have been stricken from Beijing’s list of candidates for the top job.
Judging from Beijing’s mysterious delay in approving Tsang’s resignation, it is apparent Beijing officials don’t want him to run for CE.
The delay may have come as a warning for Tsang that he either makes up an excuse and withdraws from the race like Leung did or the Communist Party will bar him from running.
The pan-democrats, who have just snapped up an unprecedented 325 seats on the Election Committee, seem to be completely at a loss over what to do next and how to maximize their influence with their vote in the upcoming CE election.
It appears as the election draws closer that the only viable option for the pan-democrats is to go all-out for Tsang and mount a campaign against his opponents such as Regina Ip or, perhaps, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.
The pan-democrats are very likely to take that option.
However, the pan-democrats’ support might turn out to be a kiss of death for Tsang because it might further arouse Beijing’s suspicions.
As far as Regina Ip is concerned, her legitimacy as a CE candidate is beyond question, no matter how hard the pan-democrats smear her.
Once the most unpopular and hated political figure in Hong Kong, Ip has come a long way in the past decade and proven herself to be a battle-hardened politician who has prevailed in one election after another.
The reason Ip’s CE bid has been futile over and over again is that she has been obsessed with meritocracy and has never quite reached out to the underprivileged and understood their misery.
The fact that she has been complacent about her status as a mainstream meritocrat explains why she has never succeeded in appealing to a wider demographic.
Leung’s low approval ratings, to a large extent, stem from the widespread public impression that he is no more than a yes man for Beijing.
However, our fellow citizens might have overlooked one important thing: no matter who is in charge, he or she will have to follow Beijing’s orders on every critical issue as Leung did.
Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is no exception. If he is elected, he won’t be given a free hand by Beijing to make his own decisions on crucial matters.
Woo does have a definite advantage over other contenders. Having spent his entire life as a judge who was above politics, Woo has largely been free from the contamination of bureaucratic practices, which may give him a certain degree of flexibility and room to maneuver that no other candidate enjoys.
Besides, Woo is a much more refreshing face than other politicians or old-school government officials in the eyes of citizens who are desperate for change.
Shortly after Woo announced his candidacy, I wrote an article saying he was not serious about his campaign.
However, judging from his recent moves such as a comprehensive election platform that touches on every pressing issue facing our city like housing and puts forward a clear roadmap to achieving universal suffrage, as well as his decision to give up his British citizenship months before his announcement of candidacy, a piece of news which has just come to light recently, it appears I was wrong about him. He is serious about his bid and he is undoubtedly playing to win.
Even though Woo is considered a long shot, it is not entirely impossible that he might pull off a stunning upset. As the old saying goes, one day is a very long time in politics.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 20
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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