After months of rumors over her intention to run for Chief Executive, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam finally put us out of our misery on Thursday last week by announcing that she had tendered her resignation.
And once her resignation is approved by Beijing, she will officially announce her candidacy for the chief executive election.
It appears supernatural forces have played a part in helping Carrie Lam make up her mind. It is said that when addressing hundreds of high-ranking civil servants and officials at a closed-door luncheon held on the day she tendered her resignation, Carrie Lam said she was “told by God” to run for chief executive.
Having spent 36 years in the civil service, Carrie Lam has been well known for her dogged perseverance, her attention to detail, her industriousness and her insistence on taking pains with basically everything. These extraordinary qualities have earned her the nickname “babysitter” of the administration.
Meanwhile, it has been a month since Financial Secretary John Tsang submitted his resignation but he is still waiting for Beijing’s approval so that he can declare his candidacy as well.
Yet, things appear to be not so promising for him. The later Beijing approves his resignation, the less time Tsang will have to put together a campaign.
Some political pundits have suggested that if the central government quickly approves Carrie Lam’s resignation, that will amount to an indication that Beijing has rejected John Tsang in favor of Carrie Lam.
However, in our opinion, in order to minimize the public impression in Hong Kong that the CE election is rigged and to avoid unnecessary speculation, it is most likely that Beijing would approve their resignations and give them the green light to run simultaneously, so as to make the CE race look more like a genuine competition.
In fact, both Carrie Lam and John Tsang have a proven track record in public service, and they are equally qualified in terms of seniority, experience and capabilities.
However, perhaps the only difference between them is that while Lam has often come across as being more hawkish and heavy-handed, Tsang has struck us as being more diplomatic and flexible.
If they are both allowed to run, together with Regina Ip and Woo Kwok-hing, who have already announced their candidacies, the CE election this year will be the most competitive since the handover.
Some say even though Beijing might have handpicked a candidate for the job, it is unlikely to guarantee that he or she will win because it is impossible for our Beijing bosses to control the 1,200 Election Committee members and make sure they all vote for the same candidate as they were told thanks to the 325 seats in the hands of the pan-democrats and the system of secret ballot in the CE election.
The system of secret ballot will always pose uncertainties and variables to the election outcome, as was shown in the last CE election, when Leung Chun-ying only managed 689 votes from the 1,200-strong Election Committee.
There were an estimated 200-plus pro-establishment members, mostly business tycoons, who intensely disliked Leung and who refused to toe Beijing’s line. After all, they were casting their votes anonymously.
Given that, it is believed members of the business sector may once again play the “kingmaker” in this election, and it would again be up to them to decide which candidate can get more than 600 votes.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 13
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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