The organiser of the last chief executive debate has dismissed an article by a pro-Beijing political commentator which claimed that candidate John Tsang opposed a format which would have allowed leadership hopefuls to directly challenge each other.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union held a forum on Sunday with all three candidates – John Tsang, Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing – on the same stage for the first time. Candidates were only required to answer questions from the audience, and there was no opportunity for them to directly ask questions of each other.


Cheung Man-kwong, an education sector elector and a veteran from the union, told Ming Pao on Sunday before the forum that he heard that “some candidate did not agree with the arrangement of challenging each other.”

Pro-Beijing writer Chris Wat Wing-yan, writing on the etnet website on Monday, quoted Cheung as saying that it was likely John Tsang who disagreed, rather than Carrie Lam, who was seen as Beijing’s favourite.

“The education and the higher education sector mostly support Tsang – if it was Carrie Lam who made that request, would Cheung Man-kwong describe her indirectly as ‘some candidate’? Wouldn’t he use the opportunity to say Carrie Lam avoids challenges, interferes with game rules?” Wat wrote.

Tsang team agreed

The Union issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the three candidates originally agreed that it would not be a session where they could challenge each other, but it reconsidered following requests from the media and public.

It contacted representatives of the three candidates the next day. It said that, by 4pm last Friday, only Tsang’s team had replied agreeing to the new format. Ming Pao reported that Woo’s team had also agreed.

John Tsang (R), Carrie Lam (L). Photo: Stand News, via Facebook.

The statement added that the Union decided not to proceed with the altered format out of respect for the candidates’ wishes and to allow more time for audience questions.

Lam’s representative did not directly answer Ming Pao as to whether she declined to participate in a head-to-head debate. However, the trio will have the first opportunity to question each other at a debate hosted by seven major TV and radio stations on Tuesday at 8pm.

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.