Date
26 May 2017
John Tsang's crowdfunding page is drawing lots of support from Hong Kong people, while state leader Zhang Dejiang (inset) has reportedly met leaders of the pro-Beijing camp in Shenzhen. Photo: FringeBacker, CNSA
John Tsang's crowdfunding page is drawing lots of support from Hong Kong people, while state leader Zhang Dejiang (inset) has reportedly met leaders of the pro-Beijing camp in Shenzhen. Photo: FringeBacker, CNSA

Can John Tsang turn crowdfunding support into actual votes?

With the nominating period set to start next week, chief executive aspirants are doing everything to secure the support of Election Committee members. One has to win at least 150 nominations to become a candidate.

John Tsang, meanwhile, has launched an online crowdfunding campaign, not only to solicit money for the hustings but also to show that he enjoys massive support from the people.

It’s his way of urging members of the electoral panel to nominate him. But will his strategy work?

Even before he unveiled his policy platform on Monday morning, his crowdfunding drive, which was launched last Friday, has raised more than HK$4 million in just four days, with more than 20,000 people having made contributions to his campaign kitty.

Tsang himself has acknowledged that the crowdfunding campaign is not just about raising funds. “It is a significant gesture, very important to show people’s support,” he said.

While Tsang is working the masses, Beijing loyalists appear to be spreading the rumor that top leaders at Zhongnanhai are throwing their support behind his chief rival Carrie Lam for Hong Kong’s top post.

On Monday several media outlets quoted sources as saying that state leader Zhang Dejiang had been meeting heavyweights of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp in Shenzhen over the past few days.

His message, according to the reports, is this: Beijing encourages a competitive election for the chief executive, and hasn’t picked a specific person for the post. However, Beijing endorses Carrie Lam as the preferred candidate.

According to the reports, Zhang was making such statements as a representative of the central government and the Communist Party’s Politburo.

Interestingly, the traditional pro-Beijing camp in Hong Kong, which follows orders from the Hong Kong and Macau Office of the State Council under Zhang’s control, continued to attack Tsang after Lam joined the chief executive race.

However, two known Beijing mouthpieces in Hong Kong, Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, did not publish stories on Zhang’s recent visit to Shenzhen. What’s happening?

In fact, it is quite strange for Zhang to go to Shenzhen before the nomination of chief executive candidates as Beijing certainly doesn’t want to be accused of interfering in the Hong Kong election and trying to influence the work of the Election Committee.

The leaders in Zhongnanhai have no reason to block other aspirants for the chief executive post.

Tsang, for example, has proven himself to be a competent leader, having been the city’s finance chief for the past nine years. His experience in civil service is more or less the same as Lam’s.

And if Beijing and its Hong Kong loyalists read his policy platform, they would find it hard to block Tsang’s bid to at least run against Lam.

If Beijing truly believes in the importance of building a harmonious society in Hong Kong, then they should have nothing against Tsang, whose softly-softly approach is much preferable than the confrontational style of Leung Chun-ying, who has deeply alienated the public he is supposed to lead.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Tsang touched on controversial issues in the first section of his policy platform, as he knows his job is to serve Hong Kong people while being in the good graces of Beijing.

In the first of five chapters, Tsang confronted the divisive issue of legislating Article 23 of the Basic Law.

He pledged to learn from past mistakes and try hard to make the law acceptable to the people, so as to safeguard the security of both the country and the SAR.

Tsang vowed to publish a white paper at the consultation stage to make sure that the people understand the proposed legislation well.

Such an approach had been suggested by lawyers and barristers, including Civic Party’s Alan Leong, in order to build a consensus and ward off suspicions that Beijing is interfering in Hong Kong affairs.

It may take a long time for the next chief executive to build consensus on the divisive issue unless Beijing itself eases its stance. 

And some members of the opposition are not totally convinced about Tsang’s sincerity.

Tsang also said he will study a possible change in Hong Kong’s simple tax regime by launching research on progressive profit tax and regressive income tax.

Some commentators immediately accused Tsang of trying to complicate a simple tax regime, but there are those who believe that the city should do something about the widening income gap.

The radical People Power previously supported the implementation of a negative income tax rate to support low-income groups.

Tsang’s platform reflects his willingness to listen and consider ideas and suggestions even from the opposition camp.

But the most controversial part of Tsang’s platform is his proposal to relaunch political reform, despite the utter difficulty of forging a consensus on the issue and its divisive nature.

Although he did not provide details, Tsang is very clear about the need to facilitate dialogues among stakeholders, including the central government, “with a view to removing misunderstandings, narrowing differences, finding common grounds and building consensus”.

Many Hong Kong people believe that Tsang is the “lesser evil” when compared with the other contenders, particularly Lam and Regina Ip, as he takes a more acceptable approach in dealing with controversial issues and conflicts in society.

Members of the Election Committee should face reality and pay attention to the will of the people.

While pressure from Beijing is strong, they should take full control of the election by using their votes to put the right person at the helm. Casting blank ballots would do no good.

Tsang’s crowdfunding campaign, which has so far raised HK$4.3 million from more than 21,000 people, should offer a clear signal to the democrats in the election panel.

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SC/AC/CG

EJ Insight writer

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