18 January 2016 South China Morning Post
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing expects aspirants for the 2017 chief executive election will only express their interest after the Legco election in September to avoid affecting the operation of the government.
Tsang, who will leave his post in September, was also getting ready for the election – not by running for the top job himself but by preparing policy research proposals he hoped will be taken up by a candidate.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, the Beijing-friendly heavyweight said he does not believe Leung Chun-ying, who is likely to seek a second term as Hong Kong’s leader, will be running uncontested in March next year.
“I hope to see people representing different views taking part in the CE election, so Hong Kong people, the election committee and the central government may have a genuine choice," he said.
As the government’s reform proposal for universal suffrage in 2017 was voted down by lawmakers, the race will adopt the existing model where a 1,200-member election committee, comprising representatives from political, professional and social sectors, will make the choice.
“I don’t think the central government wants the candidates to emerge too soon," Tsang said. “The Legco election will be make or break for the pan-democratic and the pro-Beijing camps. If the race starts too early, [the contest between Leung and others] could create conflicts within the pro- establishment camp, and in turn hand victory to pan-democrats."
This would be possible because parties in the pro-Beijing camp might support different candidates, and the disagreement could affect their coordination for the Legco election.
An early start to the race would also hurt governance, Tsang said, noting that an “obvious hopeful" was a government official, whom he did not name. “If he runs, he will have to resign. So definitely it can’t be too early," he added.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is widely seen as a likely contender, although he has not stated his intention to run.
The Legco president has recently started some research projects under the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute.
“I’d like to see more than one candidate. That’s why I am now working with a group of friends to produce a report containing proposals on various policy areas," he said. “We hope our proposals will be taken up by at least one candidate during next year’s election."
His “Hong Kong Vision Research Project", steered by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, of which Tsang is a vice-chairman, covers several areas including “one country, two systems", education and cultural policy.
The project is aimed to last for three years. So far, enough funding had been raised to support the project to carry on for two years, he said.
Democrat Call For Coalition Rejected
Pro-establishment parties and senior officials say no to plan for Legco groups to get together on livelihood issues, fearing election implications
Pro-establishment parties and top government officials have snubbed a call by a leader of the pan-democratic camp for cross-party cooperation on livelihood issues after the rejection of the electoral reform package in June.
Emily Lau Wai-hing, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, was given the cold shoulder even though her call for crossing the political aisle was relayed by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.
The snub is testament to the depth of political rancour in Hong Kong as the legislature faces filibusters over contentious government bills.
Tsang believes that Beijing, the Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment camp do not want the pan-democrats to score points from achievements delivered by a cross-party coalition ahead of this year’s Legco election and next year’s chief executive poll.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post last week, Tsang said Lau discussed with him the possibility of cross-party collaboration after the government proposal for electing the chief executive by universal suffrage was voted down in June.
“Emily suggested parties across the political spectrum should sit down for talks on livelihood issues and put forward packages to the government," the Beijing-friendly heavyweight said.
Tsang said he subsequently put Lau’s message to pro-establishment parties and some senior government officials.
“But unfortunately nobody echoed her views," the Legco president said.
In 2001, Lau spearheaded an eight-party coalition which successfully forced the government to incorporate its suggestions, such as a waiver of property rates and quarantine of residents in a block in Amoy Gardens in Kowloon Bay at the height of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.
But the coalition collapsed after the 2004 Legco election. Lau believed that Beijing did not want parties across the political spectrum to work together, while the Hong Kong government considered such a united front a threat to the executive-led system.
Lau confirmed she had discussed the idea with Tsang. “Hong Kong people would suffer if the two rival camps are busy fighting each other and fail to get things done," she said.
“You can’t force the administration to do things unless parties across the political spectrum work together," Lau said.
She said she had also raised the idea with Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Chan Yuen-han and Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun in the past two years.
But Tsang said there was no realistic hope of resolving the deadlock at least until after the 2017 chief executive election.
“From the viewpoint of the central government and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, there is a need to mobilise voters to ‘vote out’ pan-democrats from Legco to ensure smoother government operations," he said.
“Obviously the central and Hong Kong governments and many people in the pro-establishment camp are not willing to let pan-democrats score points from the achievements made by a cross-party coalition before the upcoming Legco election and next year’s chief executive poll," Tsang said.
In March last year, Leung urged Hong Kong electors to “vote out" pan-democrats in the Legco election if they are unhappy with the camp’s filibustering in the legislature and the Occupy Central protests in 2014.