Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has said that he expressed his wish to run in the chief executive race but Beijing discouraged him.

“To be honest, I told someone who has knowledge of Beijing’s views that – if there was no one running – then I will run,” he told former lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing in an interview on Wednesday. “Some time passed, I received a reply, that said ‘you would not be supported’ – then I was relieved.”

Emily Lau Jasper Tsang
Emily Lau and Jasper Tsang. Photo: Facebook/Emily Lau.

Tsang said he did not ask for the reason behind the snub, but he believed it was because his opinions could be “very far” from those of Beijing officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs.

Tsang first expressed last July that he would run if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the city’s hugely unpopular leader, would seek re-election and there was no one to challenge him. In August, he said did not want become chief executive as it is “not a good position to be in.”

Leung ultimately declared last December he would not run for a second term for family reasons. Then, former finance chief John Tsang and Carrie Lam both resigned to run in the election.

Reports carried by pro-Beijing media have often cited anonymous sources in saying that John Tsang was not a candidate supported by Beijing, whilst Carrie Lam was seen as Beijing’s favourite.

Debate night

Tsang’s comments came after a debate between the three candidates, which John Tsang, Lam and Woo Kwok-hing all agreed for the first time that they would debate each other directly on the same stage.

“I do enjoy elections – for instance, the debate last night, it was quite interesting, it would be fun if I could be there and speak,” said Jasper Tsang. “But I am scared of the possibility that I would be elected. I could be elected easily… but it is a difficult job.”

John Tsang
John Tsang and his team members at the joint TV/radio debate. Photo: Facebook/John Tsang.

Tsang said he had an angioplasty – a heart operation – last month, and that his wife joked that it was fortunate he did not run in the election.

He also said John Tsang had asked him last year, before Woo announced his run in October, whether he would run. He replied at the time that he would not enter the race.

Tsang said the former finance chief had asked him for advice on the election manifesto. They discussed controversial issues such as the legislation of the national security law – commonly known as the Article 23 of the Basic Law. He said that it should be done in several phases and that the easier parts should be passed first.

At the debate on Tuesday, Lam said that “If the mainstream opinion of Hong Kong people renders me unsuitable to serve as chief executive, I will resign.

Jasper Tsang said he believed Lam did not think things through before making the statement, but it was unlikely that the statement would hurt the central government’s trust in her. Nor would it bring serious political consequences.

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.