Tsang First to Qualify as Candidate in Race to Run Hong Kong

  • Tsang receives 160 nominations from 1,200-member committee
  • Committee seen to be stacked by central government supporters

Tang, Woo Are Candidates for Hong Kong's Top Job

Hong Kong’s former financial chief John Tsang received 160 nominations from a 1,200-member committee to formally qualify as a candidate in the race for the city’s top job.

Tsang submitted his nomination form for the chief executive election Saturday morning to the city’s returning officer, becoming the first contender to do so. He decided to send in the form as soon as he met the minimum requirement of 150 nominations instead of waiting for the March 1 deadline, Tsang told reporters after making the submission.

“At yesterday noon, I had slightly over 100 nominations,” Tsang said. “We continued to work very hard in the afternoon to secure enough nominations.”

Carrie Lam, the city’s former chief secretary, is widely seen as the frontrunner after the Standard newspaper reported that she was endorsed by senior Communist Party leaders. Beijing’s influence over the March 26 election is feeding concerns about the central government’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s affairs, sentiments that sparked protests in 2014.

Candidate Regina Ip, often characterized in the local media as a pro-Beijing lawmaker, said central government leaders were “insecure” and that she had rejected offers of top appointments to Chinese national bodies in exchange for her dropping out of the leadership race, according to an interview with Cable News.

On Feb. 5, Zhang Dejiang -- the Communist Party’s No. 3 leader -- told Hong Kong business executives and political leaders during closed-door meetings in neighboring Shenzhen that Lam was the preferred choice, the Standard reported, without saying where it got the information.

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Lam acknowledged in an interview with Bloomberg that perceptions of Beijing’s endorsement had dented her image, even as she continued to canvas for support among the election committee. “It is demonstrated by the so-called popularity polls,” Lam said. “I just don’t see what I have done wrong in the last two or three weeks, but my poll seems have come down a bit.”

Lam trails Tsang by 14 percentage points in a South China Morning Post poll of 1,018 adults released Feb. 10, compared with 4.4 percent a month earlier. Still, 66 percent believed Lam would win the job, a 20-point increase from the previous poll, compared with 18 percent for Tang.

On Feb. 23, 30 lawyers from the legal subsector in the election committee issued a statement outlining their “deep concerns” after the South China Morning Post reported that former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa told a closed-door meeting that Beijing wouldn’t approve the winner of the March 26 election if it deemed him or her unacceptable. Tung said that Beijing didn’t trust Tsang and that Lam was more capable.

“Such action undermines the fairness of our chief executive’s election and shows a callous disregard for the aspirations of most Hong Kong people to have free and fair elections without ignorant and insensitive interference,” it said.

— With assistance by Fox Hu, and David Tweed

(Adds deadline in second paragraph. An earlier version corrected the name of the former chief executive.)
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