Financial Secretary John Tsang has pushed back against rumours that Beijing told him not to run for chief executive.

The rumour, written by an anonymous commentator, was first published in pro-Beijing newspaper Sing Tao on Tuesday. Other pro-Beijing newspapers followed suit, saying that after Tsang informed Beijing of his intention to run for Hong Kong’s top job, he received a negative reply.

john tsang
John Tsang. File Photo: Gov HK.

Tsang clarified on Tuesday: “No one has discouraged me [from running].” However, he did not deny or admit to the speculation that he wrote to Beijing indicating his intention to resign and join the race for chief executive.

Beijing’s concern

Veteran commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu told Apple Daily that typically Beijing would not tell a particular contender not to run even if it did not want that person to participate.

“If that person becomes bitter and publicises [Beijing’s message], wouldn’t Beijing give the impression that it is directly meddling in Hong Kong’s elections?” Lau said.

Lau added that Beijing is more concerned about whether the pro-democracy camp, which may be able to get more than 200 seats on the 1,200-member Election Committee, will nominate a candidate. At least 150 nominations from Election Committee members are required for hopefuls to stand as a candidate in the chief executive election.

If all of the candidates belong to the pro-establishment camp, who becomes chief executive would not matter to Beijing, Lau said.

Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang said that Beijing has not given a “clear message” about whether to allow Leung Chun-ying to be re-elected or not.

Jasper Tsang
Jasper Tsang. Photo: Cloud.

The former LegCo president said he expects the Chinese government to make up its mind after the Election Committee is formed in December.

He added that Beijing probably does not want too many pro-establishment candidates to run for the position, since that would make it more difficult for a candidate to secure over half of the votes from the Election Committee, the minimum required to win the election.

The general elections for the Election Committee will take place on December 11. The chief executive election is scheduled for March 26 next year.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.