It would be understandable if Beijing waited two to three weeks after Finance Secretary John Tsang’s resignation to approve it, suggests Lau Siu-kai, a scholar and a member of China’s top political advisory body.

Since Tsang resigned 11 days ago, Beijing has not approved his departure, leading to speculation that the finance chief may not have received the “green light” to run for Hong Kong’s leadership position.

Lau said Wednesday that Beijing would risk appearing supportive of Tsang if it approved his resignation too soon, while giving the impression that it tried to prevent Tsang from running if the approval came too late.

John Tsang (L), Lau Siu-kai (R). Photo: GovHK/Apple Daily.

Lau is a local representative of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – China’s top political advisory body.

“The message would be neutral if Beijing takes two to three weeks to accept Tsang’s departure,” Lau said. “I can’t think of any reasons for it to reject his resignation.”

The scholar added that incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying had notified Beijing as soon as Tsang handed in his resignation.

‘No need to rush’

Lau made the remarks at a forum at his alma mater St. Paul’s College. Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang was also an attendee.

“It is not usual for a key government official to resign, so it is difficult to predict how the central government might handle the situation as we don’t have many precedents,” Tsang said.

Jasper Tsang. File Photo: Cloud.

He added that it took two days for Henry Tang – who lost in the last chief executive election – to receive Beijing’s approval of his resignation as chief secretary, while lawmaker Regina Ip’s resignation in 2003 as security chief was approved after two months.

Tsang said there is “no need to rush” in deciding whether to join the chief executive race, and that the last one to announce their candidacy has “the most advantages.”

He added that he would decide whether to run for the top job before the nomination period ends in February. His decision would be based on factors such as whether there is “real competition.”

‘Tolerant leader’

Both Lau and Tsang believe that a desirable quality of Hong Kong’s next leader is tolerance for diverse views. Lau said Beijing is keen to mend the relationship with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, as seen in recent events such as the decision to reissue home return permit to those politicians without them.

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: Leung Chun-ying.

Without naming names, Tsang said an appeal made by some people in the past to “vote out” opposition politicians was not conducive to a healthy political environment. Last year, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged the public to target pro-democracy politicians and “vote them out” of the legislature.

The chief executive election takes place next March 26. So far, only Ip and ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing have announced their intention to join the race.


Ellie Ng

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