Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun has revealed that he has received phone calls campaigning for a chief executive candidate and asking him to switch camps.

Tien said on an RTHK programme on Tuesday: “It seems that the ‘invisible hand’ [behind the election] has become increasingly visible, with some people focused on rallying support for a particular pro-establishment candidate, to the extent that they seem to want to bar all other candidates from contesting. This is something I heard, and I think the situation is turning into something different than what I had expected.”

michael tien new peoples party
Michael Tien. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP

Asked if he had any direct experience with the “visible hand,” Tien revealed that he had received phone calls asking him to vote for a pro-establishment candidate, though he declined to say who.

Tien, who is the party colleague of chief executive candidate Regina Ip, said: “I told the caller: Do you want me to betray my party colleague? I’ve already promised her that I will nominate and endorse her, so how can you make such a request? Why don’t you ask that candidate to speak to me directly?”

The lawmaker added: “I expected that [Beijing] would say the nomination and election this time around was open, and that candidates were allowed to freely campaign for support. If that were the case, I think it would be a big change since the handover.”

He warned that an election that is perceived to be unfair would lead to deeper divisions in society.

Regina Ip.
Regina Ip at her campaign announcement. File


Former chief secretary Carrie Lam has received wide support from the pro-Beijing camp since she indicated her intention to run for the city’s top job last week.

On Tuesday, a political gossip column in the Ming Pao newspaper cited a source in the pro-establishment camp as saying that different factions in the camp has been told to “fully support Carrie Lam and no one else.”

It said some pro-establishment politicians described the “order” as being handed down much sooner and “more aggressively” than in the previous chief executive election.

Another political gossip column in Apple Daily said on Tuesday that the “morale” of the supporters of ex-finance secretary John Tsang has been affected by the rumour that Beijing has already chosen Lam. Tsang is expected to declare his candidacy for the election this week.

John Tsang.
John Tsang. File Photo: Gov HK.

The column speculated that Tsang may only end up securing some 60 nominations from the business sector, falling short of the minimum requirement of 150 nominations.

But it added that Tsang could find hope in the pro-democracy camp, which holds 325 votes in the upcoming chief executive election. Some pro-democracy Election Committee members, such as former Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong, have said they might nominate Tsang if they were left with the choice between Lam and Tsang.

Besides Ip and Lam, a third publicly declared candidate is ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing.

The nomination period will run from February 14 to March 1. The chief executive election is scheduled for March 26.

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