The Exco/LegCo/former SecSec was cagey about running, but talked about the qualities and requirements of the next CE. She also had more than a few messages for young politicians.
Some think foreign media may be the last independent mass media left in Hong Kong one day soon. Regina Ip doesn’t think so, saying the Hong Kong media was getting ‘feistier and feistier’ since she became a civil servant in 1975. Either way, she faced question about a possible CE election run by leaving the door open to campaign, but only after September.
Ms Ip was asked point blank, and indirectly, about a run. The official line is she is focused on the re-election of herself and party colleague Michael Tien in September. There will be a mystery candidate for NT East, but when pressed privately on who it was, Ms Ip deflected the question, only saying, with good humour, “I hope you approve!” when the choice is announced (maybe, we’ll see).
She didn’t close the door to a run, comparing her emphatic negative stance in 2003 to now by saying “circumstances are different now.” This also suggests that she doesn’t think CY Leung, her Exco leader, has a lock on the job.
The title of the speech was “Hong Kong’s Future: How the Government Can Build Residents’ Trust.” The title screamed out ‘launch of CE campaign’, but the audience and language of presentation did not. Instead, this trial run in front of a civilised, but persistent, crowd of international media, gave her a chance to trial run her ideas and find out what questions would be answered.
The Perfect CE
Trust, according to Stephen Covey, is a function of character and competence. On those issues, she had something to say about the perfect CE, but little about how she would, as the candidate she isn’t (yet), overcome character negatives like being the point person in the Article 23 debacle of 2003, a deep source of distrust between the government and many Hong Kong people.
By drawing a contrast between younger politicians and unnamed older politicians, she emphasised the need for skills and experience in not only making government work, but also in building trust and consensus in the community and political sphere .
Being a consensus builder is an area where competence and trust overlap. Certainly there has a been a surfeit of reaching across traditional divides, like Ronny Tong’s new centre of the road party, with many localists and radical and pan-dem politicians alike invited.
In terms of her own outreach to youth, it was a strangely mixed message, maybe the type that needed a practice run to be refined for bigger, Cantonese audiences. For example, she opened by talking about how being an elected politician used to mean getting only a meagre honorarium, but now a district councilor earns two to three times what a normal fresh grad makes. It seemed like an opening salvo about young people being in it for the money, but she later dialled it back when, in the Q&A, she suggested young people weren’t in it for the money, but rather to have a platform for their political views and movement.
She called those railing for independence ‘young and fearless’, with seeming grudging admiration, and suggested that more cautions advisers would speak of ‘autonomy’ and other, milder terms. But she balanced that off with a spirited defence of One Country, Two System and the value of the Basic Law. When asked about what answer she would give to independence seekers looking to a successful Singapore ejected from Malaya, her answer, while perhaps satisfying to change-fearing conservatives, offered little to those looking to the future. Her answer was simply “History” – it always was and therefore always would be. For those looking to build a future of freedom and human rights, there is little appeal for when compared to 2,000 years of, as they see it, oppressive top down rule of man.
Ms Ip recognised the public appetite for a change of leadership and claimed her LegCo colleagues had got the message and were moving aside. Age, however, is no barrier for this confirmed LegCo candidate and maybe CE candidate who noted many of those running for the top job in the USA were by many years her senior (true: Ip – 65, Clinton-68 , Trump – 69, Sanders -74).
If Ms Ip is preparing for a run, she’ll need to clarify her stance on how to deal with young (and old) localists, radicals and moderate pan-dems as the consensus builder she believes our next CE needs to be. Reaction to today’s trial run may help in that process.