Chief executive election runner-up John Tsang said that – alongside his supporters – his dream of a better Hong Kong has already changed the city.
Tsang, who was up to 30 per cent ahead of winner Carrie Lam in public opinion polls, received 365 votes whilst Lam won 777. The 1,194-member small-circle election committee chose Lam on Sunday to become the city’s first female leader.
He said the result was a decision by the election committee and he respected it: “All they have is themselves and their conscience when they voted. It’s their responsibility and nobody else’s.”
The result came two days after Tsang held a rally in Central where thousands cheered for him. One supporter called the former finance secretary “The Father of Democracy” – which Tsang on Saturday denied.
“Some said this election was like a dream of mine with the Hong Kong people. Today, we have woken up from it. I believe our dream of a more democratic, more tolerant, more prosperous Hong Kong, has changed Hong Kong already,” he said.
He thanked electors who nominated him and those who voted for him. Lam was seen as Beijing’s favourite amid claims that pro-Beijing camp electors were pressured by the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s official organ in Hong Kong – to support her.
“You have stood by me and the values that I stand for in the face of immense pressure,” Tsang said.
“I had wished for the classic win of Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain – to make a last minute comeback. But the reality is that, even if the team plays well, with the fans’ support, and non-stop goals – we still may not win,” Tsang said.
“We lost because they got more goals,” he said, with a laugh. “There are things that are unfair in every football match but we can get penalty kicks. I have kicked my penalties, some got in, some didn’t.”
He said he did not have any evidence of Beijing pressuring electors.
Vote of confidence
He asked his supporters to support the new upcoming administration, and said he hoped Lam will gain more support from the pro-democracy camp – none of whom pledged support for her.
“I believe that Carrie, like myself, will also stand by the core values of Hong Kong. I wish to call upon all of you to lend her your full support, so that she and her government can bring about a more harmonious future for a better Hong Kong,” he said.
Tsang said he told Lam that the next five years would not be easy, and Lam replied that she understood his concerns.
Asked if Lam will be a “dictator,” he said, jokingly: “I hope she will be a benevolent dictator. Like Lee Kuan Yew said, this is the most efficient government.”
Tsang said he was touched by every handshake, every selfie, every conversation, every card, letter and Facebook message that his supporters gave him.
“You have been the single largest driving force that has helped me maintain optimism in this campaign, In fact, you have made me a better person in the process,” he said. “The Bible said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Tsang turned emotional as he recalled events during the campaign.
“I will never forget that day in Mei Foo, when that guy… hopped in a taxi especially from Tuen Mun to cheer for me in front of me.”
“I remember in Central, a lady who just had her birthday said her birthday wish was reserved for me and Hong Kong,” he added. “At Edinburgh Place, thousands held their phones up to form an ocean of light, a united Hong Kong.”
“I truly believe that what we have left behind is not just a legacy that will be forgotten, but general hope for a better future in Hong Kong,” Tsang said, using a famous quote from the Wong Kar-wai film The Grandmaster, which depicts the story of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, one of the sports that Tsang practices.
Tsang said that it was “dusk” for his life as a civil servant: “But I believe it is dawn for Hong Kong.”
Tsang said he did not have future plans as of now: “Give me a few days of rest before considering.”
“I don’t want to be Regina 2.0,” John Tsang said, when asked whether he will join the upcoming by-election for legislative seats. Former Security Secretary Regina Ip joined a by-election in order to restart her political career.
He also said it was “quite fun, but a tiring job” to run his popular Facebook page – but he may still do something with the social media platform.
Asked if he will join the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, when Chinese President Xi Jinping will likely visit Hong Kong, he said: “Maybe I will be travelling. It’s too far away from now to tell.”