Lee needs Legco win for starry future

Editorial | 18 Mar 2016

Pro-establishment "big sister: Starry Lee Wai-king resigned from the Executive Council - immediately prompting speculation she's planning a run for chief executive next year.

Former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, for instance, couldn't wait to offer her blessings. I'm not sure whether Ip meant to be ironic when she reminded Lee to spend more time with family, as the latter's daughter is still young.

Could Ip - who's keen on occupying the CE's office herself - be feeling threatened by Lee, since their common boss, Leung Chun-ying, had also quit Exco to seek the top post in 2012?

As well as Ip, others are also taking Lee's resignation as a signal the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman is likely eyeing the top job.

It's probable, but a bit far-fetched.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau won the general election last October to become the country's prime minster at age 44. However, what's possible in the West doesn't apply to China.

Lee's age will be too young to be acceptable to the senior leaders overseeing Hong Kong from the capital, although the Basic Law states anyone 40 or older may run for CE.

Her decision to quit Exco surely has little to do with the wish to spend more quality family time - it's more related to the Legislative Council election in September.

It became evident during the past week that Beijing was extremely concerned about the Legco election - so much so that the leaders lowered themselves to tip-toeing around the Mong Kok riot, avoiding the strong condemnation heard here.

Despite the mandarins refraining from signalling who may or may not run, the message was still clear enough to SAR delegates attending the political conferences in Beijing that they wouldn't mind seeing aspirants jockey for Hong Kong's top executive post.

The best-case scenario for Lee in the immediate future is to lead the DAB to a major victory, to steal the one-third minority veto power from the pan- democrats, clearing the way for passage of controversial legislation, including the Article 23 one.

If she's able to achieve this, it will be a building block paving the way to a higher position in the future, including the Legco presidency, or even the CE's post.

Meanwhile, she must avoid the worst-case scenario.

In the district council election last year, the DAB grabbed 117 seats, but that still wasn't the kind of huge victory the establishment had hoped for.

On the contrary, it was a setback, however small.

If the DAB can't score a landslide victory or, worse still, even lose some seats to the opposition, Lee's future will be bleak.

Party members would start questioning whether it will be suitable for the relatively inexperienced woman to continue leading them.

In this sense, the Legco election is a battle Lee can't afford to lose.

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