Chief executive contender John Tsang has said he is unable to say whether someone offered him desirable job roles in exchange for not running for the top job.

There have been reports claiming Tsang was discouraged from running by Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council. A report carried by HK01 claimed a Beijing messenger had offered Tsang three top positions in exchange, but he refused.

Tsang said on a Commercial Radio programme on Friday that there were indeed people persuading him not to run, before and after former chief secretary Carrie Lam announced her candidacy.

Photo: Facebook/John Tsang.

“[They said] you can’t win, don’t waste time… maybe you can do other things,” he said.

He was asked by the host if the rumour that he was offered the vice-presidency of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was true. He said the rumour was not trustworthy as the Bank is not solely operated by China, thus China cannot manipulate appointments of hires.

Tsang did not directly answer as to whether other positions were offered in exchange.

“Many people said many things to me – many things are inconvenient to speak of in public, I cannot say whether there were or weren’t [other positions offered],” he said.

Carrie Lam and Bernard Chan. Photo: Facebook/Bernard Chan.

At least one political figure rumoured to be on Tsang’s team joined Lam’s team, namely Executive Councillor Bernard Chan.

Tsang said he would not be unhappy about it and respected Chan’s choice, because he has never asked anyone to sign a statement or make an oral agreement to help him before announcing his run.

Waiting game

Tsang tendered his resignation a month before it was approved. Lam resigned last week, yet both resignations were approved on Monday.

Tsang said the different waiting times did not matter much.

“The most important thing is it was approved, then I work hard,” he said. “Of course it is a possibility [that it would not be approved], but I do not believe from the viewpoint of the central government, that it would want an unfair, closed competition.”

Photo: Facebook/John Tsang.

Reports have suggested that Lam may be able to gain hundreds of nominations from election committee members – far more than the 150 needed.

Tsang joked that he had just started and only had one nomination, from former lawmaker James Tien.

Asked if he was fighting an uphill battle, Tsang said: “it is not surprising.”

“In a fencing game, an uphill battle is more exciting for me,” he said.

Tsang moved to the US when he was 14 before he moved back decades later. His wife grew up in the US and his sons were born there. They now live in Hong Kong.

“I know that some relatives of many people who love the country and love Hong Kong have foreign passports,” he said when asked if he was patriotic to China.

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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.