Can high popularity save the day for John Tsang?

March 24, 2017 18:44
Fans voice their support for John Tsang as the chief executive contender undertook a bus tour on Friday in several districts. Photo: Facebook

Chief executive candidate John Tsang is preparing for a rally in Central as he winds up a hard-fought campaign ahead of Sunday's election, when 1,194 members of the Election Committee will anoint Hong Kong's next leader.

Earlier in the day, Tsang visited several districts in an open-top bus to greet citizens. Huge crowds gathered at different stops to voice their support for him. Supporters are now making their way to Edinburgh Square in Central for the final campaign rally.

The Chief Executive Election Rolling Survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong shows the support rate for Tsang as CE choice stood at 57 percent as of Thursday, far ahead of that of his rivals -- former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

Despite the high popularity, it is widely believed that Lam, rather than Tsang, is Beijing's chosen one, given talk that the central leadership does not fully trust the former financial secretary.

Tsang’s education and career background is generally considered to be a reason why Beijing might be reluctant to entrust him with Hong Kong's top job.

Tsang spent much of his early life in the US. He had also been the right-hand man of former Hong Kong colonial governor Chris Patten before the handover.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, now vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China's highest political advisory body, reportedly told a meeting that Beijing has the final power to decide who will lead Hong Kong and Tsang is "not the person it trusts".

That said, Tsang is generally believed to be more open to opposing views. As such, he has a better chance of bringing different interest groups to the negotiation table.

Given his high popularity, there is still a chance that enough Election Committee members from across the political spectrum might want to give Tsang an opportunity to take the reins of the city and implement his plans.

Reports have it that Tsang has secured about 400 votes. According to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance, a candidate must obtain more than 600 valid votes to be declared winner of the election.

The lack of Beijing's blessing could be Tsang's biggest disadvantage. It remains to be seen if his popularity with Hong Kong people can save the day for him.

-- Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer