Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Pan-democrats must rally behind Hong Kong people’s choice for leader, John Tsang

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South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-02-10

Albert Cheng believes the former financial secretary – by far the most popular chief executive contender – is the only one who has a chance of stopping Beijing’s choice, Carrie Lam, winning the election in March

Chief executive contender John Tsang Chun-wah has so far raised more than HK$4.5 million for his campaign from over 20,000 donors on a crowdfunding platform. The public support has been overwhelming; Tsang would win hands down if this were a one-person, one-vote election.

Given his popularity, it should be a piece of cake for Tsang to secure the 37,790 nominations needed (about 1 per cent of eligible voters) to enter the race in a public voting campaign engineered by Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting and billed as a “civil referendum” for the chief executive race. Tai hopes to convince the 326 pan-democrats in the Election Committee – the actual body that will pick Hong Kong’s next leader – to nominate a candidate backed by the people.

As of today, the 326 pan-democrats in the 1,194-member committee has yet to agree on a plan of action. The chances of the people’s-choice candidate receiving the necessary 150 nominations from the pan-democratic camp in the Election Committee are slim.

Radical legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung is trailing in second place behind Tsang in the unofficial nomination exercise, but it’s unlikely the pan-democrats would nominate him, given the lukewarm public reception of his candidacy.

The democrats should field at least one candidate from within their ranks who meets their requirements, so their standard bearer can present their policies during campaign debates, and highlight the inadequacies of the pro-establishment candidates.

There is zero chance a genuine pan-democrat will win this small-circle election. The best the pan-democrats can hope for is to exploit the fact that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is little more than a Version 2.0 of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and focus on one outcome, which is to get the “lesser evil”, John Tsang, elected. According to reports this week, Zhang Dejiang (張德江), the National People’s Congress chairman who is also the state leader overseeing Hong Kong and Macau affairs, met selected pro-Beijing Election Committee members in Shenzhen last Sunday. He reportedly said that Lam was the choice for China’s centre of power, the Politburo.

Tsang is the most viable candidate to stop Lam, who will, after all, have to secure 601 votes in a secret ballot. It remains to be seen how many in the pro-establishment camp will cast a conscience vote in defiance of Beijing’s will.

The pan-democrats’ only sensible option now is to nominate Tsang and vote for him. This does not mean a surrender on the part of the democrats, but rather, it means making the most of their 326 votes. Any surplus votes could be used to nominate another candidate, to make the election as competitive as possible. But they should ensure Tsang is able to enter the Election Committee’s final round of voting. The democrats may consider Long Hair for the second nomination.

This is a win-win strategy that balances ideals and realities. It gives the pan-democrats a chance to eliminate Lam, while acting according to the public will. They must not repeat the mistake of allowing vested interests in the pro-establishment camp to manipulate the election. One bad move could result in a tragic farce, and Hong Kong people would have to suffer another five years of despair, frustration and indignation.

Carrie Lam prepares to enter a hall for an election campaign event last week. The pan-democrats must seize the chance to eliminate Lam from the race. One wrong move could mean Hong Kong people would have to suffer another five years of despair and frustration. Photo: Reuters

The 326 pan-democrats represent a large section of Hong Kong people. Many have pinned high hopes on them. Their votes must fully reflect the public will in this critical post-Leung election. They will have to pay a huge price for their actions in subsequent Legislative Council elections if they insist on defying the majority view of the people.

Some pan-democrats have confessed that Long Hair’s decision to run is causing them a painful struggle. The long-standing core value of a fair and just election is to follow the will of the majority and I am sure Leung Kwok-hung believes that, too.

So he should consider taking a step back to facilitate the nomination of Tsang and – perhaps – also former judge Woo Kwok-hing, in order to mount an allied battle against Lam.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator

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