‘Wait and see’, Tsang says about entering CE race

 22 July 2016 China Daily

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing is a favorite of the 2017 Chief Executive  election. Although he said repeatedly in the past that he would not  enter the race because he will turn  70 in 2017 and will be too old, his  name is often mentioned as a serious contender.

In the past, he was linked with former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung. Recently, he is mentioned with Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in some media reports, which speculated they will form campaign teams in the election.

His latest answer is similar to what he said during a radio interview: “Wait and see”, without confirming or denying he will join the 2017 CE race.

“I said many times that I will not run but nobody believed me. So today I say ‘wait and see’,” he told China Daily joyfully in an interview, which was held in the office of Hong Kong Policy Research Institute.

He went on to say that many people in the street, including some he knows and some he doesn’t, want him to join in the CE race.

Asked if he was moved, he laughed and said: “I felt touched. I thanked them for their encouragement.”

Some senior members of the Democratic Alliance of the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), of which Tsang was the founding chairman, believed he would be very interested in running for the CE post.

During the interview, Tsang was pressed for a more specific answer to his real intentions. It is perfect timing because he is a free agent and does not need to resign from public posts.

“Will anyone tell you at this stage that they will or will not run in the CE race? You go and ask people whose names are widely circulated as contenders — Leung Chun-ying, Carrie Lam, John Tsang, Antony Leung — and I am sure no one will tell you. Leung Chun-ying said he would not announce his intention for a second term before September and so let’s wait and see what happens.”

Tsang has been free from holding a public post after the last Legislative Council meeting was adjourned on July 15 although his office will officially close on Sept 30.

Over the past week, he has been busy, attending media interviews and lunch or dinner appointments.

Tsang will have more time to stay with the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute as its vicechairman. The think tank focuses on research on public policy, governance and “One Country, Two Systems”.

In the not-too-distant future, he may also become a talk show host on radio and TV.

Tsang said enthusiastically: “I have been in talks with several agencies and the chances are high. Yet because it is not firm, I can’t tell you more now.”

Tsang will too become an adviser of the DAB. If there is a need, he will be happy to run training courses for party members.

And from next January, he will be teaching parliamentary procedures and practices at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on a short-term basis. Sessions will be run once a week, each of three hours, for a semester.

Tsang also hopes to have more time for traveling with his wife.

LegCo head: Next CE should try to reopen constitutional reform

An important task for the next Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR should be seeking to reopen the constitutional reform as soon as possible, says Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, the outgoing president of the Legislative Council.

In his opinion, constitutional reform with regard to the election of the Chief Executive and the forming of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage is of very great importance.

The next CE should treat this as the top priority of his policy agenda and forge a consensus in society as soon as possible. If these issues are not settled, they will affect effective governance, while “One Country, Two Systems” cannot move forward smoothly, Tsang said.

He said in the first place that election of the CE and the forming of LegCo by universal suffrage is written as the ultimate goal in the Basic Law, and hence the CE of the new-term government, whoever he or she is, should create opportunities to reopen the constitutional reform.

He agrees that the CE who is returned by more than 3 million voters through universal suffrage will have a very strong mandate from the people to deliver his policy objectives — yet that cannot solve every problem.

“At present, there are many governance problems that must be resolved one by one. They include executive legislative relations, an executive-led government, party politics, as well as the election methods of the CE and the LegCo,” he explained.

“Many people point out that the existing electoral method of LegCo results in  fragmentation and the rise of small political parties, and  so it must be amended. However, if the CE is not returned by universal suffrage, nobody is interested in talking about the other issues because election of the CE by universal suffrage is the most important, controversial core issue.

“To put it straight, universal suffrage for the CE election has a great bearing on party  politics and executive-legislative relations. If the fundamental issue is not properly handled, it will be meaningless to talk about other issues.

The next CE and principal officials should therefore try their very best to pass the constitutional reform and not let it stand still again.”

On Aug 31, 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress handed down a constitutional framework that governs future CE elections. While the “pandemocrats” strongly opposed it and insisted on public nomination, it is impossible to have the framework amended or have the nomination threshold lowered before it is implemented.

In responding, Tsang said: “This is a test of the intelligence of Beijing officials. If the central government wants to carry out constitutional reform in Hong Kong and the ‘pan-democrats’ also want it, they will surely find a way and come to terms,” adding that another standstill is no good  to anybody.

Tsang admits that this year’s LegCo election is very crucial because the consent of two-thirds of LegCo is required to pass the constitutional reform.

“It is of course not easy but it depends on the content of the reform package. Like any place in the world, constitutional reform is very important and cannot be passed simply by a simple majority,” he said.

Tsang defends his handling of filibustering

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who finished his job as the Legislative Council president last Friday, defends his tactics in curbing filibustering. He hopes discipline in the next LegCo will be better, Joseph Li writes.

Outgoing President of the Legislative Council Jasper Tsang Yok-sing refuted arguments that he had been weak in curbing rampant filibustering tactics adopted by opposition lawmakers in the legislature in the past four years.

The 2012-16 Legislative Council term ended on July 15 amid filibusters and ringing of quorum bells.  Medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau, nicknamed “Weird Doctor” for his unconventional style, dragged down the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 in order to protect doctors’ interests. The following bills on private columbaria and fire service engineering installations also lapsed due to insufficient time.

“(Basic Law Committee member) Lau Nai-keung said I was going easy on filibusters and said there were many ways to stop them. One person cannot filibuster. If some ‘pan-democrats’ were not helping him, Leung alone could not play the game. Also, the pro-establishment camp was ineffective,” he argued.

“If they wanted to beat the quorum bell, they should stay there,” said Tsang during an exclusive interview with China Daily.

“This also showed that if the opposition wants to make life difficult for the government, the government can’t do anything,” he said.

“I hope (discipline) during the next term of Legislative Council will be better,” said Tsang, who will step down at the end of this term after first becoming a lawmaker in 1997 and serving as president for eight years.

However, despite his best intentions, radicals and “localists” may be elected to the legislature and continue to make trouble.

Tsang said during the 201216 term, 83 out of 89 bills were passed. The result was good and no one could say LegCo is ineffective.

“From the viewpoint of the ‘pandemocrats’ as the minority, they know they will surely lose if matters are put to the vote. So they filibuster to force the government into negotiations,” he explained.

Tsang noted that the quorum is stipulated in the Basic Law and he has to ring the bell if anyone states there is an insufficient quorum.

But in some foreign parliaments, there is no quorum requirement or just a very low one.

“In some foreign parliaments, the bell only rings at beginning of meeting and voting. I thought the quorum is not needed throughout the meeting. The former LegCo legal adviser disagreed and so did an independent counsel from England and LegCo’s new legal adviser.

“If I had an authoritative legal opinion that supported my view, I would not have been allowed to ring the bell. Those who objected might seek judicial reviews, yet an interpretation by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee might be very controversial,” he said.

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