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Who is Beijing’s Pick?

Reporters: Marilyn Ma, Rivers Zhang

Veteran China watcher Willy Lam Wo-lap says he believes the Chinese central government fully supports Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, not John Tsang Chun-wah in the Chief Executive Election.

“It is beyond doubt that Beijing would support Carrie Lam,” says Lam. He explains that John Tsang may win more support from pro-democracy groups, but Carrie Lam is better at knowing how to please the Chinese government and takes a harder-line than Tsang on the execution of policies important to the central government, such as legislation of Article 23 and the interpretation of the Basic Law.Terminology_conspiracy theories1-01

Sing Pao Daily News has played an important role in triggering a wave of conspiracy theories about Beijing’s real preference for Chief Executive. Lam says many people believe the conspiracy theories that President Xi Jinping prefers Tsang and doubt National People’s Congress Standing Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang can represent the real will of the central government.

However, Lam disagrees with the theory that there are two “cores” in the Chinese central government because Beijing’s backing for Chief Executive has to be determined by a consensus in the Politburo Standing Committee of the China. The all powerful group includes members from the different factions in Chinese politics, including the so-called Shanghai clique and Xi’s faction.

Lam says it is unreasonable to assume that Zhang, described as a member of the Shanghai clique, to openly challenge Xi, especially as Xi has expanded his power following his anti-corruption campaign.

“Chinese politics is opaque and operates in a black-box. So we can only surmise which faction supports which candidate based on trends we can see, we black and white evidence,” he says.Terminology_conspiracy theories quote-01

Lam says Beijing is showing its backing much earlier than it did five years ago. In the last chief executive election, Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes while there were only two candidates competing for 1200 votes. He says the central government has learnt its lesson and wants to ensure Carrie Lam can win comfortably with a large margin.

Editor: Lynette Zhang, Minnie Wong

Graphics: Doris Yu