17 February 2019
John Tsang enjoys high popularity, but he needs to do more to convince Hong Kong people that he is the best among the CE hopefuls. Photo: HKEJ
John Tsang enjoys high popularity, but he needs to do more to convince Hong Kong people that he is the best among the CE hopefuls. Photo: HKEJ

Is high popularity really everything?

After being kept in limbo for more than a month, former financial secretary John Tsang finally got word from Beijing last week on approval of his resignation, paving the way for him to formally announce his candidacy for the chief executive election and kick off his much-anticipated campaign.

At a press conference, Tsang declared that his campaign slogan will be “Trust, Hope, Unity”. His campaign logo contains Victoria Mountain on the left, which stands for wealth, and Lion Rock on the right, which stands for the go-getting spirit of Hong Kong people.

According to Tsang, he was determined to join the CE race as he wanted to bring hope to young people. He said he feels sad when he hears young people talking about emigrating from the city. 

Generally speaking, Tsang pulled off a pretty impressive publicity stunt at his news conference and gave the public several positive impressions:

First, his speech was written very well and struck the right note; second, his campaign logo was eye-catching and embodied the principle of “less is more”; and third, he expressed his patriotism without overdoing it by telling the story of how he was subject to racism when he was living in the US.

So, it seems things are finally starting to fall into place for Tsang and his approval rating is by far the highest among all of the four candidates. However, the question is, does he really have what it takes to run our city?

Ironically, just a day before Tsang announced his candidacy, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying brought up again, whether deliberately or otherwise, the 2011 policy initiative of Tsang to give HK$6,000 cash handouts to the public. Leung said he had never collected that HK$6,000 because he believed the money should go to those who are really in need.

As a matter of fact that cash handout six years ago did throw a question mark on Tsang. The saga could have been avoided if he had executed it more cleverly and sensitively. At that time his popularity hit a bottom because of the poor way he handled it.

Now, it reminds us of two things: first, John Tsang may be the most popular candidate for the next CE, but popularity is not something that is constant — it rises and falls.

Let’s not forget the approval rating of Donald Tsang hit record high when he succeeded Tung Chee-wah as chief executive back in 2005. And we have seen what happened later.

Second, high popularity doesn’t necessarily equal capabilities and sound leadership. Given Tsang’s clumsiness and insensitivity in handling the cash handouts six years ago, does he really have the necessary qualities to be our leader?

It appears Tsang still has a long way to go before he can truly convince the people of Hong Kong that he is the real deal.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 20

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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