19 January 2019
Former financial secretary John Tsang said people are tired of discord. Photo: Bloomberg
Former financial secretary John Tsang said people are tired of discord. Photo: Bloomberg

John Tsang vows ‘more harmonious society’ in bid to run HK

Former financial secretary John Tsang said his ability to reach out across political divides makes him better suited for the city’s top job than his ex-boss or chief rival.

“People are really tired of the discord we have had,” Tsang told Bloomberg in an interview. “We want to bring about a more harmonious society. We need to build consensus rather than a confrontational position.”

Tsang, 65, has officially announced his bid to succeed outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whose hardline approach in dealing with groups seeking greater democracy has been blamed for inflaming tensions in the former British colony, the news provider said.

His main opponent is 59-year-old Carrie Lam, who resigned as chief secretary earlier this month to run for the top job.

Speaking of Leung, who announced in December that he would not seek a second term due to family reasons, Tsang said many of his former boss’s policies were “not bad”.

“The fact is there has been discord in the community. I think what we need is to embrace inclusiveness,” he said.

Tsang believes Lam, his main rival, would “carry on the policies, the practice of the current administration”.

“I would bring about more inclusiveness in our community. I will bring about more participation from different sectors of the society. More than she would.”

Leung’s office had no comment.

Tai Keen-man, a media official with Lam’s campaign, noted that the former chief secretary has “stressed that the government should listen to the people, whose collective wisdom is invaluable, and should build a more inclusive society by striving for greater consensus”.

Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok said Tsang has better ties with democracy advocates than Lam, whose interactions were “definitely icy”.

“The advantage of John Tsang is that he has a much better relationship with us and would be able to unite at least the moderates much easier,” Kwok said.

Tsang said top priorities would include creating a new education department run by professionals and making housing more affordable.

He said he would focus on large-scale land reclamation and redeveloping the city’s aging housing, while avoiding moves to build on country parks as proposed by Leung this week.

“There’s no reason to believe I’m not trusted by Beijing,” Tsang said, amid speculation that top leaders of the central government favor Lam to be the next chief executive.

Tsang had to wait more than a month for Beijing to approve his resignation and clear his candidacy, which has been interpreted as a sign that it isn’t backing his campaign.

Lam’s resignation was accepted within a week.

Tsang, who served as finance secretary from 2007, has long enjoyed the highest approval rating among the city’s top officials.

A survey commissioned by Hong Kong Economic Journal and conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 33.5 percent supported Tsang and 30.9 percent backed Lam. The others had less than 10 percent.

Tsang pledged to look at political reform. “People in Hong Kong aspire to universal suffrage, and this is something that we need to work on,” he said.

However, he said it is pointless to discuss independence. 

“Hong Kong independence is really a non-issue,” Tsang said. “This is not something that is conceivable. People talking about it are really sort of out of tune.”

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