Chief Executive race contender Woo Kwok-hing has admitted to meeting with the top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs. He is the first candidate in the leadership race to acknowledge publicly that such a meeting had taken place.

He said at a forum on Sunday that he had met with Wang Guangya, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, in Shenzhen last Thursday. They spoke for around 45 minutes to an hour, but he refused to disclose what was said. They met at the Bauhinia Villa, which is usually used to host Beijing officials visiting Shenzhen.

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

“I promised not to talk about the content – I will not tell anyone what was said, that’s the only short answer I can give,” Woo said. He added that Wang was not interfering with the chief executive election.

Shenzhen visits

Citing unnamed sources, Ming Pao reported that Wang went to Shenzhen to meet four potential candidates separately, namely Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, Financial Secretary John Tsang, Ip and Woo.

The report said Wang explained Beijing’s four criteria in choosing a chief executive. He or she must love the country and Hong Kong, have an ability to govern, is trusted by the central government, and is supported by Hong Kong people.

Woo Kwok-hing and Regina Ip visiting a “coffin cubicle” set.

It added that Wang listened to their views on joining in the race, but he did not say who will have Beijing’s support.

Lam and Tsang have not confirmed whether they have met with Wang. Regina Ip, another contender also at the forum, also did not directly admit whether she had met with Wang when asked by reporters.

“Thank you for the question, but it is really inconvenient for me to reveal the process or content of my communication with the central government,” she said.

She said that, if the public supported the “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” principle and democracy, then they should not speculate over whether Beijing supports certain candidates.

The nomination period for candidates will start on February 14. Any hopeful will need 150 nominations from the 1,194-member election committee.

Media proxy war

Since last week, reports have emerged across major news channels that Wang had discouraged Tsang from joining the race.

A report carried by news site HK01 on Sunday cited an unnamed source as saying that a person Tsang knew well acted as Beijing’s messenger towards the end of last month. They sought to persuade Tsang not to run and offered him three positions. Namely: Vice-president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); Membership of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; and a top position in the upcoming national agency for the “One Belt One Road” Initiative.

Wang Guangya, head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. File

The report claimed Tsang refused.

Ming Pao then cited another source on Monday as saying Beijing never offered the AIIB position in exchange and the claim was illogical, since it is the Board of Governors, not Beijing, which decides on appointments. It also said that Hong Kong is not even a member of the AIIB and the current president is former Chinese vice-minister of Finance Jin Liqun – it is, thus, not possible to have another Chinese vice-president. The source also said that a Singaporean person is now the human resources director of the AIIB in order to show that China does not favour nepotism.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former investigator at the Hong Kong anti-corruption agency, said it would be an offence if the alleged exchange was true.

He said the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Tsang should clarify the incident as soon as possible to protect the integrity of Hong Kong.

Kris Cheng

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.