Radical democrats are preparing to field Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung as their candidate in next month’s chief executive election.
The move comes as Beijing loyalists are trying their best to cement the impression that former chief secretary Carrie Lam is the chosen one.
Also, John Tsang appears to be flexing his muscles in a crowdfunding campaign that has raised millions in a show of public support for the former financial secretary’s candidacy.
Meanwhile, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing has secured support from some pro-democracy advocates.
Long Hair’s candidacy, expected to be announced on Wednesday, could be a tipping point in the race to win 150 votes from the Election Committee — the number required to secure official nomination.
Long Hair is being backed by a coalition of radical democrats including People Power, the League of Social Democrats, Demosisto and Eddie Chu.
In the past few weeks, pan-democrats have been debating whether to support Tsang or Woo, either of whom is considered a “lesser evil” than Lam.
But Long Hair’s entry could upset their plans. In fact, both Tsang and Woo could end up not having the required 150 votes for nomination if the pro-democarcy camp is split among the three. Pan-dems have 325 seats on the Election Committee, enough to bring two candidates past the threshold.
After Tsang unveiled his platform on Monday, in which he argued for a national security law, the democracy camp had a change of heart regarding backing him.
Also, Tsang called for the relaunch of political reform with the “831 framework” set out by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) as the starting point.
The pan-democrats are resolutely opposed to the proposed legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law on national security and political reform based on the NPCSC formula.
They were faced with a hard choice between walking away from the chief executive election, given that all of the candidates favor the enactment of a national security law, or sending their own candidate.
From the radical democrats’ perspective, Long Hair could be the one person who will prevent them from having to make such an unappealing choice.
Leung, of course, might garner nomination but he has no chance of winning the small-circle election. At the end of the day, the 1,200 members of the Election Committee will pick anyone of the candidates but him.
That would be good news for Lam who already enjoys the backing of top Beijing officials. On top of that, the Liaison Office has been reportedly soliciting Election Committee members on her behalf.
Some political analysts are questioning Long Hair’s decision to join the race, saying it undermines what could be a real contest between Lam and Tsang and torpedoes any chances for Woo’s dark horse candidacy.
Should the democrats cast all of their 300-plus votes for Long Hair, the race could become one between Long Hair and Lam and the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Interestingly, more than 21,000 people donated to Tsang’s crowdfunding effort to support his candidacy, affirming his popularity.
Hong Kong people trust Tsang to handle controversial political issues rather than face a new wave of political struggle under Lam.
With Tsang’s softer approach to these issues, Hong Kong people might accept the lesser evil of a national security law rather than another decade of political debates without concrete results.
On Tuesday, the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong announced a civil referendum for the chief executive race. The online platform provides a chance for Hong Kong people to nominate their candidates.
Those who get 37,790 nominations — 1 percent of all eligible voters — will enter a mock election for the top post. The deadline for nominations is February 22 and the final vote will be held between March 10 and 19.
So far, Tsang received more than 4,200 nominations, leading other candidates. Woo Kwok-hing and Long Hair ranked behind Tsang with more than 1,200 and 1,400 nominations respectively.
Carrie Lam and Regina Ip secured 46 and 47 nominations, respectively.
Long Hair said he needs to have more than 37,000 public nominations to join the race but in the previous Legislative Council election he just got about 36,000 votes in his New Territories East constituency.
It seems that Long Hair’s campaign is merely symbolic in order to placate his supporters and satisfy radical pan-democrats who don’t want to choose between two evils.
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