Lam in running start as Tsang bid stalls

Editorial | 12 Jan 2017

Today is shaping up to be another important day in the chief executive election after December 9, when incumbent Leung Chun-ying announced his intention not to seek a second term.

It is significant because, if as reported, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor tenders her resignation to clear the way for a run at the top job, John Tsang Chun-wah's resignation - submitted seemingly ions ago - as financial secretary is entering its second month.

This is a particularly interesting time.

For what will Beijing do with the two resignations?

Will it approve Lam's resignation and refuse to accept that of Tsang's?

That is a possibility, but it would be most unlikely as it will render that show of favoritism unseemly in the public eye.

It is probable that Beijing will approve Lam's resignation ahead of that of Tsang or accept both at the same time.

No matter what the case may be, the difference in timing matters.

The March CE election is expected to pit "Iron Lady" Lam against Tsang, the "Mustachioed One" - despite the fact former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired judge Woo Kwok- hing have been on the campaign trail for some time.

It's clear that Lam's team is taking shape more quickly than expected, as political heavyweight Ronald Arculli is tipped to head her election office.

Arculli, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority vice-chairman, was originally said to be supportive of Tsang, but changed his mind after Leung announced he was stepping down.

In fact, Lam's election team is picking up a number of CY's followers, including barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen - a core member of the lobby body "30SGroup," that was formed in 2003 by a collection of young professionals.

The group's website professes it wants to establish a society which is caring and not merely aimed at boosting the gross domestic product. Li is expected to be a deputy director of Lam's team.

Another joining Lam is spin doctor Benson Luk Hon-man, who's another 30SGroup member and convener of think tank Genext. Luk had also been an active Leung backer. Needless to say, one of their immediate daunting tasks will be to prop up the Iron Lady's popularity, after she was badly battered by backlash from the "Palace Museum" controversy, causing her to fall behind Tsang in the ratings by nearly 10 points.

In a related development, a conspiracy theory had gone viral, suggesting Tsang was flashed the red light in his plan to run for the chief executive's post, during a recent meeting with Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office.

At the Shenzhen meeting, Wang reportedly offered Tsang a deputy governor's post at the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or a place in the standing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in exchange for a promise not to throw his hat in the ring for the CE's job.

Again, this was just one of the conspiracy theories that have been bandied about. However, Tsang doesn't seem to have been fazed by the developments.

So, will he officially announce his CE candidacy as early as Sunday, if his resignation, according to sources, is finally approved - albeit reluctantly - by Beijing today?

At any rate, it finally appears the countdown to the March 26 chief executive vote is about to begin.

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