Veteran pro-democracy camp lawmaker James To has said that choosing who to nominate in the chief executive race will be tough after lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said he may throw his hat into the ring.

Leung announced on Wednesday that, if he successfully obtains around 38,000 unofficial public nominations through an online platform, he would run for the city’s top job. He said the pro-democracy camp should not vote for any of the four major contenders and it should, instead, have its own representative. Leung has the support of lawmakers Eddie Chu, Lau Siu-lai, Ray Chan and Nathan Law.

Leung Kwok-hung. File Photo: Facebook/Leung Kwok-hung.

To become an official candidate, hopefuls need to receive nominations from at least 150 of the 1,200 members of the Election Committee.

Tsang vs. Leung

The pro-democracy camp has been in a difficult situation over whether to give nominations to John Tsang.

He is popular among the public, and represents an opportunity to challenge the pro-Beijing camp favourite Carrie Lam. But he has proposed the legislation of Hong Kong’s ill-fated national security law and did not reject Beijing’s decision on vetting chief executive candidates. Tsang has admitted that only a very small number of people have publicly pledged to nominate him.

Leung’s potential run, should he receive enough public nominations, gave rise to concerns over whether pro-democracy election committee members should give him actual nominations. If they do so, it may harm the chances of Tsang.

James To, a veteran Democratic Party lawmaker, said he was surprised Leung had decided to begin securing nominations, since he has always boycotted the “small-circle elections.”

James To. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

To said even though there has been news about his potential run, Leung had not previously explained his reasoning to fellow democrats during their weekly meetings.

“If lawmaker Leung’s run may assist a ‘Leung Chun-ying 2.0’ to be appointed and continue torturing Hong Kong people for five, or even ten, more years – lawmaker Leung has to take it into consideration, we have to consider it carefully,” he said.

To said it was a “perplexing situation” as a poll conducted by the Lingnan University showed some 60 per cent of self-proclaimed pro-democracy camp supporters support Tsang.

“If [John Tsang] asks me to nominate him because 60 per cent of my supporters support him, but lawmaker Leung said at the same time that he has some 30,000 public nominations… who should I support? I expect it will be a difficult choice,” he said.

Dennis Kwok. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

But Dennis Kwok, lawmaker and a coordinator of the 300-odd pro-democracy electors, said Leung’s move would not affect their goal.

“Our goal is to create a competitive election, and we oppose manipulation [by Beijing],” he said. “I believe all electors have clear goal in this aspect, we must have a strategy to effectively use our nominations to achieve our goals.”

He added that they would not make a decision on nominations for now.

Rivals’ welcome

Tsang welcomed Leung’s move as he said society would like to see more people serving the city.

Asked about a potential decrease in nomination votes, he said: “I have always hoped to get support from every section of the political spectrum… the votes from the pan-democrats are important, those of the pro-Beijing camp are also important.”

John Tsang. Photo: John Tsang, screenshot via Facebook.

Contender Woo Kwok-hing said Leung’s move was an “expression of a political stance,” more than anything else.

“It may further split society – it is very different from my platform and vision,” he said. “I don’t want any more splits in Hong Kong society, I want to fix the split.”

“I hope electors have clear eyes. It will not affect my run.”

Woo Kwok-hing. Photo: Facebook.

Rival Regina Ip said Leung had told her of his intention a long time ago at the Legislative Council. She welcomed the move and said it will not affect her.

“His character, background and platform are all very different from me, so we have our own different supporters.”

The official nomination period for Election Committee members runs from February 14 to March 1. Voting day is scheduled for March 26.

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.