Chief Executive contender Woo Kwok-hing has said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying‘s decision not to run for re-election may help restart the failed political reform process. The former judge said that he is the best candidate to bring reconciliation to Hong Kong society.

Earlier on Friday, Leung announced that his family may face unbearable pressure if he entered the leadership race. Woo said he respected Leung’s decision not to run.

“Now that he won’t run, Hong Kong society may not be so split, it may benefit the restarting of the political reform – I am happy,” he said. “It’s a happy day today. I am happy for Hong Kong.”

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Woo Kwok-hing. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

He said he has been meeting with people from different sectors and has been constantly learning. “I hope I can serve them if I am elected.”

Woo, a former chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, urged those who were entering the chief executive race to announce their candidacy as soon as possible. The election for the 1,200-member chief executive election committee – who will decide the city’s leader in March – will take place on Sunday. However, lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is only expected to announce her candidacy next Thursday.

“I am much better. Firstly, I have been running elections for many years, I know people from all parties and factions, and they trust me because I am fair and just,” he said. “I do not have political baggage, I do not belong to any camp, I am not a government man – it takes a man like this to help with the reconciliation of society.”

Interview: Chief Exec. hopeful Woo Kwok-hing determined to lead Hong Kong out of political stalemate

“Secondly, I will protect Hong Kong’s rule of law and consolidate Hong Kong’s judicial independence,” he said.

‘Much better’ candidate

Woo said he is better than Ip because he was a lawyer. Both agree that Article 23 of the Basic Law – the ill-fated sedition law – should be legislated.

“She doesn’t know how to talk about Article 23 well – that’s why she failed – I am different,” he said, adding that he is better than Financial Secretary John Tsang, another potential hopeful, because he is a lawyer. Ip was security secretary in 2003 when an effort to implement the controversial law sparked huge protests.

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Eunice Yung (left) and Regina Ip (right). Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Woo said being “not a government man” meant he was impartial.

“I was not acting for the government, I was acting for my post, looking after Hong Kong’s interest,” he said.

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Woo said that now Leung has decided not to run, he expected the focus of members of the election committee would shift to consider the best candidate for the job – rather than focusing on whether to re-elect Leung.

Woo said no one from the central government has contacted him, nor has he received any signal from Beijing – often dubbed a green or red light. “I often run across green light and red lights,” he said.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.