A crowdfunding website crashed on Friday after chief executive candidate John Tsang appealed on social media for public donations to his electoral campaign.

“Due to the enthusiastic response, the server of Fringebacker’s website has been overloaded. Please choose other donation methods referred to on my campaign website,” Tsang said less than 20 minutes after announcing his fundraising drive on social media.

Fringebacker Vice President Vivien Chan told HKFP that they were still testing the website when Tsang posted the link on social media. She then said: “There are a lot of server requests – too many people are trying to access the link before we even officially launch.”

‘Unite society’

“I believe Hong Kong’s most pressing need today is to build trust and unite society, so that young people can feel hopeful about their future,” Tsang said in his appeal.

“I did not announce my candidacy alone; rather, I intended to invite all 7.35 million Hongkongers to join me in the effort to make Hong Kong a better place.”

Tsang’s team also made a promotional video for the fundraiser. In the video, with the Lion Rock in the background, Tsang said donations are not meant to support him alone, but to “upkeep a spirit of Hong Kong united.”

The “Lion Rock spirit” generally refers to the spirit of perseverance and solidarity, and is considered a core value of Hong Kong society.

Support from ex-colleague

Former development chief Mak Chai-kwong was also featured in Tsang’s fundraising drive. He appeared in Tsang’s promotional video on Friday, in which he said: “Beyond just being a colleague, [Tsang] can be a friend. I believe more or less that he is someone who respects everyone, who holds friendship in high regard.”

Ten years ago, Mak worked under Tsang’s rival and former chief secretary Carrie Lam at the Development Bureau. Mak’s public support for Tsang came as a surprise, as he was widely considered to be one of Lam’s “favourite” subordinates.

Tsang’s posts received wide support from the online community, with many requesting additional donation options. An online commenter wrote: “Even though we don’t have a vote, we can cast an alternative vote by donating and signing [petitions].”

But critics questioned Tsang’s move. An online commenter said: “You want our donations? Okay, but first answer me this: Do you support disqualifying democratically elected lawmakers from the legislature?” Another said: “Only idiots would donate to his campaign. Why would you give him money knowing that the Chinese government controls the whole election?”

Tsang is the only candidate that has asked for public donations for his campaign. Three other candidates are: Carrie Lam, ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing and lawmaker Regina Ip.

The small-circle chief executive election takes place on March 26. 1,200 people sitting on the Election Committee are eligible to vote.

Editor’s note: HKFP uses Fringebacker’s fundraising services. 

Ellie Ng

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