23 February 2019
Regina Ip poses with her supporters. For the second time, Ip has failed to be nominated for the chief executive election. Photo: HKEJ
Regina Ip poses with her supporters. For the second time, Ip has failed to be nominated for the chief executive election. Photo: HKEJ

Could Regina Ip have made it if the field had been even?

Regina Ip likes to think she put up a good fight. In the end, she thinks she was done in by the system.

And so, her second chance to run for Hong Kong chief executive has been thwarted. She dropped out of the race on Wednesday, ending a 77-day campaign.

Ip said she will return to the Legislative Council to carry on her work as a legislator.

Her failure is a good example of how the process has been distorted by Beijing’s Liaison Office, as well as by the system itself by indirectly limiting the number of potential candidates.

Prior to her decision to throw in the towel, she wrote on her social media page that she had continued to meet Election Committee members to lobby their support.

If Beijing did not meddle in the nomination process and handpicked Carrie Lam, Ip could have won more than 150 votes from the Election Committee.

If the contest had been even, up to eight candidates could have conceivably contested to reach the threshold of 150 nominations from the 1,200-strong committee.

As it turns out, Carrie Lam received 580 nominations, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing had 180 and former financial secretary John Tsang 165.

That said, there were more than 270 committee members who abstained.

Theoretically, Ip should have been able to fight until the last minute but it was clear her candidacy was being blocked by Beijing from the outset.

In September, Ip won more than 80,000 votes in the Hong Kong Island geographical constituency during Legislative Council elections. She received support from the middle class, civil servants, as well as professionals.

It’s puzzling how a lawmaker with a strong pubic support could have performed so poorly in the chief executive nomination even though it’s a small-circle process.

Of course, her track record did leave a negative impression on some voters, especially the younger ones, but the fact is she is the only one of the four aspirants who has directly participated in an election.

From this perspective, Ip should have qualified for the election.

Things could have been different under universal suffrage but the reality is that Ip’s fate was dictated by Beijing.

Still, Ip refused to criticize Beijing, instead blaming the system and some of her earliest supporters for turning their back on her.

As a pro-Beijing loyalist, she showed her blind loyalty to Beijing throughout the campaign and got nothing in return.

Even her deputy, Michael Tien, said he was asked by a “person close to Beijing” to switch his support to Lam. Tien also refused to criticize Beijing for its actions.

Ip has done a lot of work to promote her manifesto. If she had declared herself to be a Hong Kong-first candidate without fear of Beijing, she should at least have secured support from the silent majority or some democratic members of the Election Committee.

Now, Ip might need to review whether she or her party should stick with the pro-Beijing camp or take a pro-Hong Kong stance, as happened to the Liberal Party which defied Beijing and nominated Tsang.

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EJ Insight writer

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