Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), yesterday announced plans to seek the chief executive’s post, a move buoyed by perceptions that she is the person China prefers to lead a territory wracked by political turmoil.
Lam, 59, said she yesterday told Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) that she would step down and seek his job, if Beijing approved.
“There is only one reason for me to resign at this juncture,” Lam told reporters. “I intend to prepare to contest the upcoming chief executive election.”
Lam has long enjoyed strong approval ratings in the former British colony, despite steadfast support for her Beijing-backed and unpopular boss, who last month decided not to pursue a second five-year term. That reputation makes her the favorite to succeed Leung in a March vote by a 1,200-member election committee dominated by China loyalists.
The next chief executive would face sharp divisions over Chinese rule and whether the Chinese Communist Party is backsliding on its post-colonial promise to maintain the territory’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework.
Leung’s approach has been blamed for inflaming tensions, including his refusal to meet with student leaders behind mass protests in 2014 and ongoing efforts to oust as many as six opposition members from the Hong Kong Legislative Council, some of whom have advocated independence.
While Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (曾俊華), 65, has also tendered his resignation to mull a run, the central government has not yet accepted it. Other candidates include lawmaker Regina Ip (葉劉淑儀), 66, a former security minister, and a former judge, Woo Kwok-hing (胡國興).
A Chinese University of Hong Kong poll of 1,024 residents published yesterday by the South China Morning Post found that more than 45 percent of respondents said that Lam had the best chance of winning the election, compared with 19.9 percent for Tsang.
However, Tsang was the most popular contestant in a hypothetical five-way race including former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang (曾鈺成), who has not announced a bid, with 27.6 percent support for John Tsang versus 23.2 percent for Lam.
In four years as Leung’s top deputy, she has garnered a reputation for championing China’s policy goals without inspiring the same animosity from the opposition.
Lam said she would go on leave starting today.
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