A former senior government official has advised unsuccessful chief executive candidate John Tsang to partner with the pro-establishment Liberal Party.
Writing in his column in the AM730 newspaper on Wednesday, former civil service secretary Joseph Wong said that the business-friendly party was “the ideal partner” for Tsang if he wanted to extend his political influence. Tsang received support from the Liberal Party during his campaign.
65-year-old Tsang said in a Facebook video following his defeat in March’s small-circle leadership election that he would “seriously consider” a return to public affairs. However, he said he would first take a break.
The most popular leadership candidate according to public opinion polls, former financial secretary Tsang was attacked by the pro-Beijing press, while one prominent pro-Beijing figure claimed that he was not trusted by the central government.
Although many of his votes came from pro-democracy electors, Wong said that Tsang’s stance on political issues – such as enacting the Article 23 security law and his refusal to disavow Beijing’s 2014 decision to vet leadership candidates – prevented him from joining the pro-democracy camp.
‘Willing to speak the truth’
Wong suggested that Tsang and the Liberal Party shared similar values: “In the eyes of many, the Liberal Party under [former chairman] James Tien was a pro-establishment group that was willing to speak the truth to the Central Government on behalf of Hongkongers.”
Tien served as chairman of the Liberal Party until 2008, and as its leader from 2013 to 2014. In 2003, he refused to support the implementation of the controversial Basic Law Article 23 security legislation, leading to its withdrawal. He also had a poor relationship with incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
However, the party’s influence in the legislature decreased after many members departed in 2008 to later form the Business and Professionals Alliance. It now holds only four seats.
“Tien actively refrained from running in last year’s Legislative Council elections,” wrote Wong. “But he failed to help new Liberal Party candidates win.”
Wong said that in the coming year there would be at least two – and as many as six – vacant seats in the legislature, owing to the government’s legal challenges to disqualify pro-independence and pro-democracy lawmakers based on the way they took their oaths of office.
“If Tsang partnered with the Liberal Party (he does not have to join it), I believe he – or the candidates he supports – will be popular enough to win most or all of the seats in the by-election,” wrote Wong.
“This could be Tsang’s foundation for continuing his political influence.”
Tsang received 365 votes in the small-circle election. He was defeated by former chief secretary Carrie Lam, who received 777 votes.