Legal sector chief executive electors have expressed deep concern over widely reported remarks by former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa concerning the upcoming election.

Tung reportedly said at a closed-door meeting that chief executive contender John Tsang would not be appointed Hong Kong leader by Beijing, even if he wins the race, thus he invited Carrie Lam to run.

Tung did not confirm or deny the report when asked by reporters. He later issued a statement that said it was a critical moment for Hong Kong to have a capable and responsible chief executive to unite and develop the city, and that the chief executive must be trusted by the central government.

Tung Chee-hwa
Tung Chee-hwa. Photo: Our Hong Kong Foundation.

The 30 pro-democracy legal sector electors warned of a potential criminal offence surrounding Tung’s reported remarks.

They included former lawmakers Alan Leong Kah-kit and Albert Ho Chun-yan, as well as legal expert Eric Cheung Tat-ming and former Bar Association chairman Edward Chan King-sang, among others. They won all 30 seats in the December election for the election committee.

“Any attempt to exert pressure or influence, by use of threats, to any member of the Chief Executive’s Election Committee over their exercise of nomination powers, to the detriment or advantage of any potential nominee, is to be deplored and may amount to inciting (or attempting to incite) the commission of a criminal offence,” they said in a statement.

“Such action undermines the fairness of our Chief Executive’s election and shows a callous disregard for the aspirations of most Hong Kong people to have free and fair elections without ignorant and insensitive interference.”

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo:

Tung was Hong Kong’s first chief executive, serving from 1997 to 2004 when he resigned following a plunge in popularity. He has since become a vice chairman of China’s top legislative body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

In December, before Lam resigned to run in the election, Tung specifically gave Lam a hug at an event, instead of a handshake.

Coincidentally, Lam had also said at a closed-door gathering of top media management that she joined the race out of concern about the worst case scenario – a constitutional crisis if Beijing does not appoint the winning candidate. She did not explicitly mention John Tsang.

Lam has been considered a more favourable choice for some Beijing officials.

John Tsang
John Tsang. Photo: Facebook.

John Tsang said he understood that Beijing had the right to appoint the chief executive and senior officials. However, he would not respond to any rumours: “This is a fair, open and just election… I don’t see any reason why [Beijing] would not accept the election result.”

The nomination period for the race will end on March 1. Carrie Lam will likely submit over 400 nominations – much higher than the 150 required.

It is estimated on the basis of reports that Tsang had over 120 nominations by Thursday.

Woo Kwok-hing
Woo Kwok-hing. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Another contender Woo Kwok-hing said he received 72 nominations, meaning he will need 78 more to secure a place in the race. They were mostly from the pro-democracy camp.

“I love nominations from anyone of any side,” he said.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip has been struggling to receive nominations other than those from her party members. She will host a press conference on Friday to reveal a third installment of her election platform points.

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.