Regina Ip: ‘I have the edge over rivals to lead Hong Kong’
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South China Morning Post - In her first interview with print media since launching her chief executive bid, Regina Ip dismisses popularity of potential rival John Tsang and plays down speculation former leader Tung Chee-hwa is behind Carrie Lam for the top job

Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee says she has the edge over her presumed rivals but concedes it is difficult to win the backing of nominators who try to second-guess Beijing’s preference for Hong Kong’s next leader.

In an interview with the Post, Ip tried to divert attention from her contentious election call for national security laws and cast herself as a force for change, despite having been around the upper echelons of Hong Kong politics for much of the post-handover era.

She dismissed online mockery that her ascension to power would be “Leung Chun-ying 2.0”, insisting she was “a very different person” from the outgoing chief executive.

In her first interview with the print media since announcing her candidacy on Thursday, the New People’s Party lawmaker took aim at two potential arch rivals – Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who tendered his resignation last week.

Tsang’s popularity, she said, was mainly a result of him “playing nice” and staying away from controversies, while the high-profile bear hug given to Lam by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa at an event last week was not unique to her.

“I think you people read too much into it,” Ip, a former security minister, said. “He also embraced me when I called on him at his home last week. I call on Mr Tung regularly. He was my old boss. He already hugged me.”

Ip borrowed a slogan of US president-elect Donald Trump and vowed to “make Hong Kong great again”. She said: “We have been a great Asian story. We have been part of the East Asian economic miracle.”

But she looked restrained and uptight during the one-hour interview. While sounding optimistic that she would secure the minimum 150 nominations from the 1,194-member Election Committee that will choose the city’s leader in March, she admitted it was no easy task.

“It is definitely true that a lot of people are second-guessing,” she said, when asked about Beijing’s sway on the nominators. “Naturally in Hong Kong, a lot of people like to second-guess – we all understand why.”

A candidate will need at least 601 nominations to win.

In 2012, dozens of members who nominated Henry Tang Ying-yen turned to Leung at the ballot box, amid reports that Beijing’s representatives in the city had requested them to do so.

Ip called on nominators to show more guts. “If you believe in the ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ [principle], I think our elected representatives ought to be braver and judge each candidate on his or her merit.”

On Tsang’s relative popularity – which was given a fresh boost after he opened an Instagram account to reach out to young people on Friday ­– Ip said: “He has been in the position of financial secretary avoiding a lot of political controversies. If you just play nice, it’s naturally easier to score high popularity.”

But she added: “A politician who’s truly committed to the welfare of Hong Kong cannot just stop at playing nice. You have to get a handle on the really tough problems.”

Distancing herself from Leung and her four years of Executive Council membership under him, she said: “I am a very different person from Mr Leung. I will leave it to [Election Committee] members to form their own judgments.”

Ip was quick to emphasise her strong ties and good relationship with the civil service, saying it was one of her strong points.

“I am very confident I can form a much stronger cabinet. I have a lot more support in the civil service than you might know. I have a reputation for being a good boss.”

She acknowledged the importance of public support in Beijing’s eyes. However, her election call to enact national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law would hold little appeal to the politically active younger generation.

Ip initially sidestepped the question about Article 23, saying she would prioritise housing and land supply. When pressed whether she would incorporate last-minute concessions she proposed in 2003 before the failed legislative bid cost her the job of security minister, Ip was non-committal, saying future officials would need to “take a fresh look” at the law.

“The bill was drafted 14 years ago. The concessions were made a long time ago. As and when the SAR government relaunches the exercise I think all the officials concerned have to take a fresh look.”

Source: SCMP

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