Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, 70, became the first person to officially announce his candidacy for the job of chief executive at a press conference in Wan Chai today. Citing his reasons for running, he criticised Leung Chun-ying for his inability to handle internal division in the city and political grievances.
Woo said if he were elected, he would create a “fair, just and harmonious society” in the next five years. He admitted he would only do it for one term because of his age. But he would consider another term if health allowed or he had no choice. Woo also vowed to tackle political reform.
“I have decided to participate in the election because I believe Hong Kong as a community has become too polarised and fragmented. Politically, we have reached a stalemate,” he said.
“I believe my experience as barrister and judge in the past 46 years has imparted in me a deep understanding of multiple aspects of Hong Kong society and culture,” said Woo, the former vice-president of the Court of Appeal and architect of the Electoral Affairs Commission, which he chaired between 1993 and 2006.
Asked whether he had consulted Beijing about his candidacy, he said the decision was all his.
“Beijing didn’t force me to run for the post and I didn’t consult them,” he said.
On the Beijing Liaison Office, Woo said: “I know people working in the Beijing Liaison Office [in Hong Kong]. I don’t know [office director] Zhang Xiaoming [but] I told them my intention.”
He also said it was better for Hong Kong to make its own anti-subversion law (a law to protect national security that stops people speaking out against the central government), rather than leaving it up to Beijing to make the law.
“If the law is made in Hong Kong, we can expect Hong Kong people’s views to be taken into account and Hong Kong core values to be safeguarded.”
He agreed that it was “not very good” that an anti-subversion law had not been enacted in the 19 years since the handover, as “according to the Basic Law, Hong Kong has the responsibility to enact laws to prohibit any act of treason”.
Asked how he would handle the case of the missing bookseller (Lee Bo), he said he would go to Beijing and ask what was happening. He added Hong Kong was the safest city.
Barrister Ho Bing-kwan is one of the core members of Woo’s election team.
Woo met several lawmakers from the Democratic Party and Liberal Party as well as former legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah in recent days to discuss his candidacy.
Woo also met former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho Sau-lan on Wednesday afternoon.
Woo is the third judge to make a run for chief executive. In 1996, then chief justice Yang Ti-liang ran in the first chief executive election in which he eventually lost to Tung Chee-hwa.
In the same election former judge Simon Li Fook-sean also made a run.
Woo became a barrister in 1969 and was named a High Court judge in 1992. He was chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission from 1993 to 2006, and then served as the commissioner on interception of communications and surveillance until 2012.
He retired from the judiciary in 2011.
Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi said she could not say whether she would support Woo before his election platform was rolled out.
“I think he’s very brave as it is a controversial area,” Tam said. “I have no reason not to have confidence in his [willingness] to safeguard Hong Kong’s rule of law as it is a duty not just for chief executive contenders but every lawyer in general.”
Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, told Young Post that Woo was a respectable judge, but he didn’t have much experience in the public sector.
Chung also said that only three candidates could be nominated to run for the top job. “Woo’s announcement and plan should prompt other possible aspirants to announce their candidacy for the chief executive election,” he said.
Anyone interested in running for the top post is expected to announce their candidacy before December 11. The election will be held on March 26 next year.