Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has withdrawn from the Hong Kong chief executive race.
“I have to apologise to my supporters,” she said. “I received far fewer nominations than the 150 needed.” Ip needed 150 nominations from the 1,200 members of the Election Committee before March 1 to officially run as a candidate.
Ip thanked all of the electors who nominated her, saying that – after 77 days of campaigning – she has organised 137 meetings with different sectors and groups in Hong Kong, and received a total of 108,365 “likes” on her Facebook posts.
“I personally feel I put a lot of effort into the election race this time,” she said. “I feel I could not get into the race because of the system… there are only 1,200 electors.”
“So when you have four candidates, all from the pro-establishment camp competing, I feel I have been squeezed out.”
She did not disclose the number of nominations she eventually received. But she said that the next chief executive must have the ability to speak with different sectors and with people of different opinions: “I feel that I have done that in the past 77 days.”
‘Liberal pro-establishment figure’
She said she believed that many of the electors who did not nominate any candidate before March 1 – or even those who nominated John Tsang – would eventually vote for Carrie Lam. Lam is believed to be Beijing’s favoured candidate. However, Ip said she believed that nobody had tried to “block” her candidacy. “I am an optimistic person,” she said.
A campaign spokesperson beside her said that the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong – did give “opinions” regarding the chief executive election. “However, it’s not like anyone pointed a gun,” he said.
“I hoped to become a liberal pro-establishment figure,” said Ip. “I tried to communicate with those who really did not like me, including those who participated in the Occupy protests.”
It was too soon to say whether she would run as chief executive in the next elections in 2022, she added, citing her health. As to whether Beijing would support her doing so, she said: “Nobody has disallowed it, I have my basic right to run.”
She added that even as recently as Wednesday, four electors had decided last-minute not to nominate her. She believed that their votes would go to Lam. “To continue the same governance style as the incumbent [Leung Chun-ying] government… I believe that would not be a good thing,” she said.
Ip is a legislator with the pro-establishment New People’s Party. She was formerly secretary for security between 1998 and 2003, when she attempted to enact the controversial Article 23 national security law.
The nomination period for the small-circle chief executive race ends on Wednesday. The main contenders are confirmed to be former chief secretary Carrie Lam, ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing and former finance chief John Tsang. The election takes place on March 26.
More to follow.