Chief executive contender John Tsang has said the reports claiming his rival Carrie Lam is the only one supported by Beijing have a quite high degree of reliability.

He said at a Shue Yan University talk on Tuesday that he knew of the reports claiming state leader Zhang Dejiang visited Shenzhen to tell electors to support Lam. The decision was apparently made by the Central Politburo.

Publications carrying the report included Ming Pao and Sing Tao Daily, TV channels i-Cable and Now TV, and news site HK01, among others. However, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao, two pro-Beijing newspapers controlled by the China Liaison Office, did not carry similar reports.

John Tsang. File Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“Many newspapers have said so, the reliability is quite high,” Tsang said. “Saying these words, it may affect some people [chief executive electors], but I believe there are brave people in Hong Kong.”

He added he will continue to seek support and will not back down in face of difficulties.

Tsang also joked that he only received five public nominations from electors and he will need 145 more.

Care for the public

Another chief executive contender, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, said on social media that he did not know if the reports were true.

But Woo said he noticed that Chinese President Xi Jinping recently said Politburo members must care for the public and understand their concerns. Woo also cited Xi as saying that people’s problems have to be solved.

“I believe the central government hopes to elect a chief executive who can solve people’s problems,” Woo said. “Hongkongers, electors and the central government do not want a chief executive who ‘has no understanding of the public.’ A chief executive who creates more conflicts should absolutely not be handpicked.”

Students protest at Shue Yan University against John Tsang. Photo: Facebook live screenshot.

Meanwhile, some students protested again Tsang during his talk, as they chanted: “We need a society which truly respects freedom of expression, we need universal suffrage, we need civil nomination.”

Tsang said in response that political reform is the wish of Hong Kong people, and he will start work at once if he is elected. He said he hoped it could be conducted in a harmonious and communicative environment.

The students also voiced opposition to the August 31, 2014 framework set by Beijing whereby a nomination committee vastly controlled by Beijing must vet chief executive candidates before a popular election.

In response, Tsang said the framework was decided upon by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and changes would have to go through them: “If we reflect the true views of Hong Kong to them, I believe they will make a more accurate judgment.”

John Tsang having lunch at a local restaurant. Photo: Facebook/John Tsang.

He was also asked by a student how much is a dish of grilled pork with rice, and how much is a pineapple bun. Tsang said he have purchased the dish at HK$30, whilst some places sell it at HK$50. He said pineapple buns are at least HK$4 each. His answers were roughly accurate.

The nomination period for the small-circle chief executive race runs from February 14 to March 1. The main contenders also include former chief secretary Carrie Lam, lawmaker Regina Ip and ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing. The election takes place on 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.