22 April 2019
John Tsang has a tough battle on his hands in the CE race despite his high public approval ratings. Photo: Bloomberg
John Tsang has a tough battle on his hands in the CE race despite his high public approval ratings. Photo: Bloomberg

Labeling John Tsang as CY 3.0 won’t wash

As the nomination process gathers pace for the chief executive election, supporters of the outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, are stepping up efforts to build a case for their preferred candidate, Carrie Lam.

Apart from touting the leadership credentials of their favored contender, a key part of the Leung group’s campaign strategy appears to be running down Lam’s main rival, John Tsang.

With Tsang already winning support from some pan-democrats on the Election Committee, Leung loyalists have begun to question the opposition bloc’s rationale in relation to their candidate choice.

And one of their arguments is this: why do you think Tsang will be much different from Lam, as the two come from the same civil servant background and have both served in top posts under Leung?

If there are fears that Lam will be just another version of Leung, or CY 2.0, what is there to guarantee that Tsang won’t be even tougher when it comes to doing the bidding of Beijing?

This was the line taken by a Leung loyalist, Cheung Chi-kong, as he suggested that Tsang could, in effect, turn out to be CY 3.0.

In a newspaper column Wednesday, Cheung took issue with the opposition camp over its bid to nominate Tsang in the CE election, pointing out that Tsang was also a member of the establishment and seen to enjoy the trust of Beijing.

If the pan-democrats label Lam, the former chief secretary and the frontrunner in the CE contest, as CY 2.0, why shouldn’t Tsang be considered as CY 3.0, Cheung asked.

In the article, Cheung criticized the opposition members on the Election Committee for supporting Tsang, saying the group was backing the former financial secretary without giving deep thought.

Noting the knee-jerk support to Tsang, he described it as sending a daughter to an unknown person for marriage.

At the same time, Cheung, who is an Executive Council member, said the opposition camp shouldn’t blindly follow rumors that Tsang has a close relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

If Tsang really has Xi’s unstinted backing, why does he still need opposition camp members to secure his nomination for the CE race, he wrote.

Cheung, meanwhile, also questioned as to why Tsang is seen as a lesser evil than Lam even though Tsang has signaled an aggressive stance in relation to a contentious national security law.

The tone of the article leaves readers in doubt that it represents an attack on the potential alliance between Tsang and the democrats.

It also underscores how Leung and his loyalists like Cheung are seeking to protect Lam from negative criticism and shift the focus onto Tsang.

While the moves are understandable, it is hard to imagine the tactics will alter the public’s perceptions of the two main candidates and lead to a spurt in support for Lam.

Cheung’s comments will, in fact, only serve to escalate the deep-rooted conflicts between the establishment and the opposition camp.

From Cheung’s perspective, an establishment candidate has no need to secure nominations from the democrats.

Now, if Tsang secures sufficient nominations from the opposition camp, he could come under Leung scrutiny and also leave him exposed to charges of “political incorrectness” in terms of loyalty to China’s Communist rulers.

However, what Cheung doesn’t seem to realize is that Hong Kong people know very well how to judge their prospective leaders.

What people want is a chief executive who has his heart in the right place and serves all society, not someone who prioritizes the interests of business tycoons and Beijing loyalists.

Given his record over the years, Tsang, despite some shortcomings, has demonstrated to the public is that he can be trusted to lead Hong Kong with a concrete policy platform and that he would be willing to listen to the common man.

Though he has faced criticism that he tends to focus too much on public relations, the former finance chief has at least made it clear that he aims to change the current deadlock in local politics.

In contrast, there was a good reason for Lam being labeled as CY 2.0, as she has strictly followed Leung’s style and policies and backtracked on the issue of restart of political reform.

Her campaign has focused largely on issues concerning the interests of the tycoons and business elites, and Lam has also not bothered to hide the strong support she is getting from Beijing’s liaison office.

All these factors make Lam a CY 2.0, if you will.

But in the case of Tsang, the warning that he could turn out to be CY 3.0 is uncharitable to say the least, given his sincerity and track record.

Tsang has been advocating “inclusiveness” in his campaign platform, adopting several initiatives suggested by democrats, such as combined development of small houses and flats in New Territories under the Home Ownership Scheme, while at the same time paying heed to Beijing’s goals on matters such as Article 23 legislation that deals with national security.

Tsang has shown that he is willing to listen to all groups, unlike Leung and Lam who have a record of ignoring suggestions from the democrats and see everything in a narrow political perspective.

Coming back to Cheung’s article, his attack on Tsang was off the mark and is unlikely to sway the popular mood in any significant way.

That said, it underlines a dilemma for democrats as they need to make a decision as to whether should back radical democrat “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung or Tsang or retired judge Woo Kwok-hing in the CE contest.

The opposition camp has a difficult task on striking a balance on their wish to fight for genuine democracy and facing up to the truth that Beijing has the ultimate control in the election.

What they really need to do is follow the public opinion and show to Beijing that they are casting votes as a proxy for ordinary citizens, rather than act out of self interest and petty considerations.

Beijing has stressed that one of the conditions for Hong Kong’s next leader is that he or she should enjoy good public support.

On this score at least, we know that Tsang is ahead of Lam, as attested to by various opinion polls. 

Tsang is certainly not a CY 3.0, so it would be better if the Leung loyalists stop trying to mislead the public.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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