Tsang and Woo Qualify to Race for Hong Kong's Top Job

  • Woo receives 156 nominations while Tsang submitted 160 Sat.
  • Regina Ip and Carrie Lam have yet to submit nominations

Hong Kong’s former financial chief John Tsang was joined by ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing in receiving enough nominations to run as a candidate in the race for the city’s top job.

Tsang submitted his nominations for the chief executive election Saturday to the city’s returning officer after getting the support of 160 people from a committee of about 1,200 members. Woo said Sunday that he secured 156 nominations but would wait until he had 160, which would be “safer.” The minimum requirement for candidacy is 150 nominations, which need to be submitted by March 1.

Tsang and Woo are generally seen as Beijing’s less desired candidates after local newspapers reported that former chief secretary Carrie Lam 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.

Regina Ip, who is also working on securing enough nominations to enter the race, said the central government leaders were “insecure” about the election result 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.

For a QuickTake on Hong Kong’s Autonomy, click here

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.

Read More: How China Holds Sway Over Who Leads Hong Kong

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,” according to the statement by the lawyers.

— With assistance by Crystal Tse

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.