CE aspirants in line for center stage

Editorial | Mary Ma 7 May 2021

Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was wishy-washy when last asked by Reuters if he was going to mount a comeback in the 2022 CE election - but it's always been clear that he would jump at the chance if given the green light.

An interview with Leung's loyalist Cheung Chi-kong published in local media yesterday was the clearest sign to date.

Cheung - who was a member of Leung's Executive Council - said the former CE's high standing as one of the country's state leaders should not prevent him from contesting the election scheduled for March next year.

This is despite the protocol that the CE office is junior to Leung's current role as a CPPCC vice chairman.

According to Cheung, Leung would not mind giving up his state leadership position if he has to in order to be given a chance to face the Election Committee that will expand to 1,500 members and select the SAR's next leader and nearly half of the Legislative Council.

In the interview, the former Exco member even cited a number of examples to support his claim that it was not unprecedented to see an official holding state leadership status to command a junior office. He cited Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xiao Baolong as one such case.

Apparently, the message was aimed at the ear of someone in a higher position. Could Cheung be trying to argue on Leung's behalf that it should be okay to let the latter run for the CE office and that his leadership role in the country's hierarchy should not be a hurdle?

Could there be another meaning? Perhaps Leung's opponents within the establishment both in Beijing and here are trying to preempt his candidacy on protocol grounds.

Will he be able to run? That should be known very soon as time is running short for likely candidates to start campaigning, along with the Election Committee vote on September 19.

Current Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is clearly paving the way for a second term and, as the incumbent, she has advantages over others.

If she were not CE, would she have had the chance to host a new RTHK TV program to speak directly to future members of the Election Committee? The program, Get to Know the Election Committee Subsectors, gives her a timely platform to project herself to the electorate.

Nonetheless, it was strange enough that Lam's Exco member Ronny Tong Ka-wah picked a rather unusual word to describe the looming race as he voiced support for a second term for Lam, saying it's going to be a choice between "devils."

"Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" - that's the advice Tong had for the Election Committee members. So, if Lam is the "devil" Tong knows, who would be the other "devil" that he doesn't?

The CE race is taking shape. Although others - including lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and businessman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok - have said in public that they may run too, the race will likely be a face-off between the former and current CEs.

Subject to Beijing's nod, that is.

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