One of the top aides to chief executive candidate Carrie Lam has said he was initially a supporter of rival John Tsang before switching sides.

Bernard Chan, Lam’s campaign office chief, told Ming Pao that Tsang did not approach him, but he approached Tsang last November to say that he would nominate him if Tsang joins the race. Chan is a member of the National People’s Congress and an elector in the small-circle election.

He said that Lam had yet to announce her run at the time. But as Lam joined the race following an announcement from incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that he would not seek re-election, Chan switched to her camp.

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

Chan, an Executive Councillor, said it was an embarrassing situation that he was friends with Tsang and his campaign chief Rebecca Lai Ko Wing-yee, whilst Lai is also a non-executive director at Chan’s company Asia Financial.

“So I would not do any smearing [in the election],” he said. “If Mrs. Lam joined the race earlier, a lot of this may not have happened.”

Chan made the comments while attending the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Lam is seen as Beijing’s favourite after reports that the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s official representatives in Hong Kong – was helping her. China’s third-ranking official Zhang Dejiang also reportedly said she was the only leadership contender supported by Beijing.

China Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
China Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

On accusations that the Liaison Office was meddling in the election, Chan told the Hong Kong Economic Journal: “We have never worked with them.”

He said the team was campaigning on its own: “We fought for every single vote – [the Liaison Office] did not just give votes to us.”

“If it was so easy to manipulate, then we shouldn’t have worked so hard at all.”

Chan said he will not take a full time position in the government if Lam is elected, since he has to take care of his family and his business.

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.