Chief executive candidate John Tsang has said during a youth event on Tuesday that he is committed to serving Hongkongers.

The former finance chief said last September that “you always agree with your boss, no questions about that.” An attendee on Tuesday cited the quote and asked Tsang how he would balance the interests of Beijing and Hong Kong – the two parties the chief executive is answerable to.

John Tsang. Photo: John Tsang, via Facebook.

Tsang replied that while chief executives have a duty to answer to the central government, their job is to serve the people of Hong Kong, Citizen News reported.

“Hongkongers are my boss. They are the subject of my service,” Tsang said. He promised to fully convey the views of Hongkongers to Beijing if he was elected.

Tsang’s rival Carrie Lam has focused on her extensive experience in the civil service during her campaign. Without naming Lam, Tsang said: “Many people mistakenly believe they can bring people together as long as they have experience in public administration. The key is not public administration, but governance.”

Carrie Lam. , via Facebook.

Tsang added that the criteria for good governance include a leader with popular support, and a cabinet of credible and competent officials.

‘Affable’ character

Tuesday’s event was organised by the youth wing of the pro-business Liberal Party. The party’s ex-leader James Tien appeared in a campaign video released on Tsang’s social media platform on the same day.

In the video, Tien said that, unlike other government officials who tend to adopt an antagonistic attitude towards lawmakers, Tsang was always “affable” to Tien and his colleagues in the legislature.

“If you ask me to give only one reason for supporting John Tsang, it would be his willingness to listen to others,” he said. “I think this is one of his biggest strengths, considering the political climate in Hong Kong today.”

Tien added that he did not receive any phone calls from the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong. His brother, lawmaker Michael Tien, previously claimed that “a very influential heavyweight” called him campaigning for Lam, despite knowing that he supported his party’s colleague Regina Ip.

“Perhaps because they see James Tien as the bad boy of the pro-establishment camp, and he won’t listen to them,” James Tien said in the video.

The small-circle chief executive election is scheduled for March 26. Ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing is also in the running.

Ellie Ng

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