Sparks fly as CE rivals face off

Top News | Phoenix Un 6 Mar 2017

Sparks flew in the first election debate between chief executive candidates Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Woo Kwok-hing.

And former chief secretary Lam managed to take a dig at the elephant in the room - former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, the third candidate who declined to attend the debate.

Lam insisted she was never called "Leung Chun-ying 2.0" before announcing her candidacy,

"There is a big difference between him and me, as he is a man and I am a woman. I never worked in the private sector, and pro-democracy [legislators] often talked with me," Lam said.

Retired judge Woo - who in the past had said Lam was "more CY Leung than CY Leung" - retorted that her 30-year civil service showed she would be an autocratic leader.

The 90-minute debate, held last night at Pui Ching Middle School, was organized by the centrist political party Path of Democracy.

Path convener Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who was one of the moderators, blasted Woo for attacking his opponents with radical words. Woo responded: "I am not attacking others, but just talking about the facts. Leung is the source of social polarization, and as Lam is Leung's chief official, she should be responsible for the polarization."

Woo took umbrage at Tong, by saying his party's manifesto was middle- of-the-road. "No one believes in the middle-of-the-road you [Tong] suggested, but people believe in mine," he said.

On why no pro-democracy Election Committee member nominated her, Lam said: "They boycotted discussions with Leung about the policy address, but they still talked with me about it."

Lam also took a swipe at the absent Tsang when she asked Woo about his financial policies.

"Now I understand why another candidate didn't come because I have the same public finance philosophy as Ronny, that I am also doubtful about the [reserve] funds in the government."

Lam then criticized Woo for lacking administrative experience and measures to reform the government structure.

Woo compared himself with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who had no administrative experience but was voted in by the Canadians. "Hong Kong doesn't need technocrats as chief executive, because the more they are familiar with procedures, the more presumptuous they are."

When summarizing, Woo said: "In order to have 'We Connect' as her [Lam's] slogan said, we need respect. But from her history we only see autocracy, but no respect."

Lam said she would listen to citizens despite criticisms that she was arrogant.

Earlier yesterday at a separate event, Tsang drew the number 1 - first of the three in the order of their names appearing in the ballot paper in the March 26 election. Lam is 2 and Woo 3. Returning officer Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling drew the numbers.

The three shook hands for the first time when Lam walked up to Tsang and Woo, first shaking hands with Tsang before Woo and then putting herself in the middle with Woo on her right and Tsang on her left - still holding their hands for the cameras.

Tsang said he had a gut feeling he would be No 1. "I had expected I'd be number one."

Woo said 3 is good as it means "lively" in Cantonese.

Before the drawing Woo - a former chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission - told the incumbent chairman Justice Barnabas Fung Wah: "Rumors said electors were required by somebody to take a photo of their ballots, which horrified them."

Fung said there would be no identification numbers on ballots. CCTVs in the polling station will also be removed and all electors will be required to switch off their mobile phones to prevent them from taking pictures of their ballots.

The ballot papers will be safeguarded and destroyed after six months so no one would be able to collect fingerprints from the ballots.

Woo said he was satisfied with Fung's reply while Tsang said the relevant laws were clearly stated.

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