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Hong Kong’s financial chief “has the qualifications” to be a contender for the city’s next leader, pro-establishment veteran Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has said, although “many others” also fall into this category.
But the Executive Council member, who has herself run for chief executive twice before, also warned against interpreting Paul Chan Mo-po’s new report on the city’s business environment as an attempt to showcase himself ahead of the March election.
The unprecedented report, released on Monday, catalogued the “severe damage” the 2019 anti-government protests caused the city’s business environment and blamed Washington for a “strategy of suppressing China” by using the city as a “pawn”.
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The content and timing have sparked speculation in some quarters that it was an attempt to position himself for a potential run for higher office.
But Ip cautioned against reading too much into the report’s release.
“I think you think too much. This is the responsibility of the financial secretary, and I don’t think he’s trying to show off his personal performance [by issuing the report],” Ip, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, told a radio show host on Tuesday.
“Writing a [report] is not very significant, the most important thing is to be able to resolve actual problems in Hong Kong.”
That said, Chan had “the qualifications to be one of the contenders”, Ip added, but “many others” were also qualified for a run at the top office.
Ip pulled out of the 2017 chief executive race after failing to secure the 150 nominations required to formally qualify for the polls. She dropped her 2012 bid for the top job for the same reason.
Like Chan, the minister-turned-lawmaker has yet to indicate if she plans to take another shot at the city’s leadership in March.
Three security officials were promoted in a major government reshuffle in June, reflecting an increased emphasis on law and order. Notably, security chief John Lee Ka-chiu was elevated to chief secretary, the city’s second-highest position. Police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung, meanwhile, took over Lee’s previous portfolio.
Asked on Tuesday if it was possible for candidates with backgrounds in the disciplined services to run for the top job, Ip, a former security chief, suggested it could potentially be advantageous.
“Of course, the [central government] has been placing a heavy emphasis on national security. Having managed and being able to manage disciplinary forces should be one of the important factors for consideration.”
On Monday, Chan dismissed the idea that his 68-page report, which also hailed the Beijing-imposed national security law for helping restore order, had anything to do with the next leadership race.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, he stressed, was “fully aware” of the document and had approved its release, which came less than a week before Lam was expected to deliver the final policy address of her term next Wednesday.
For her part, Ip said she believed the report was meant to reflect the city falling in line with recent Beijing actions and statements aimed at the United States.
China’s foreign ministry on Friday issued what it described as a “criminal record” of US attempts to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.
“I think the central government is angry about the US sabotaging the business environment in Hong Kong, and the financial secretary has the responsibility to make clarifications,” she said.
This article Hong Kong finance chief ‘has the qualifications’ for city leader, but blasting US in report shouldn’t be read as political manoeuvring, heavyweight says first appeared on South China Morning Post