Who will be the next Chief Executive? A look at the four likeliest candidates

Who will be the next Chief Executive? A look at the four likeliest candidates

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(Clockwise from top left) Carrie Lam, John Tsang, Woo Kwok-hing, and Regina Ip
Photo: David Wong, Dickson Lee, Chan Xiaomei, Jonathan Wong/SCMP

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee

Hong Kong's very own "Iron Lady" and the city's first female Secretary for Security, Regina Ip is a controversial figure. She advocated for Article 23, which many believe would affect freedom of speech and expression; opposed the right of abode to mainland children who were born to Hong Kong parents out of wedlock; and promoted the HKSAR passports to many countries, securing visa-free access for Hong Kong passport holders into the EU, and then many other countries.

Birthday: August 24, 1950
Age: 66
Secondary School: St Stephen's Girls' College
Bachelor degree: University of Hong Kong (English Literature)
Master's degree: University of Glasgow (Master of Letters), Stanford University (M.Sc - Management), Stanford University (East Asian Studies)
Political Party: New People's Party

Government Career

1975-1995: Joined the civil service as Administrative Officer serving different bureaus and departments

1995-1996: Director of Industry Department

1996-1998: Director of Immigration

1998-2003: Secretary for Security


‘I am interested’ in running for Hong Kong chief executive, Regina Ip confirms


Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor

As Secretary for Development in 2007, Carrie Lam dealt with the controversy surrounding the demolition of Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier. As Chief Secretary for Administration, Lam participated in a televised open debate with student leaders of 2014's Occupy Central. In December 2016, just a few weeks before her resignation, Lam came under fire for collaborating with Beijing to build the Hong Kong Palace Museum, which went ahead without public consultation and transparency during the decision-making process.   

Birthday: May 13, 1957
Age: 59
Secondary School: St. Francis' Canossian College
Bachelor degree: University of Hong Kong (Social Sciences)
Master's degree: N/A
Political Party: N/A

Government career

1980-1996: Joined the civil service as Administrative Officer serving different bureaus and departments

1996-2000: Principal Assistant Secretary and subsequently as Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

2000-2003: Director of Social Welfare Department

2003-2004: Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands) and chairman of the Town Planning Board

2004-2006: Director-General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London

2006-2007: Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs

2007-2012: Secretary for Development

2012-2017: Chief Secretary for Administration


John Tsang Chun-wah (unannounced)

Born in Hong Kong and educated in America, John Tsang has been working for the Hong Kong Government for more than 30 years. In the 1990s, Tsang was appointed as private secretary to the last colonial governor, Chris Patten. In 2003, he was made Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology. From 2006-2007, Tsang was Director of the Office of the Chief Executive under the Donald Tsang administration,. Called Hong Kong’s “God of Wealth”, John Tsang has been in charge of the city’s Budget since he took office as Financial Secretary in 2007. Known for missing estimated budgets by wide margins, he has been criticised for lacking a long-term plan and is widely considered a conservative in his views on how public money should be spent. In the 2011 Budget, Tsang proposed the HK$6,000 tax rebate for all Hong Kong permanent residents.

Birthday: April 21, 1951
Age: 65
Secondary School: La Salle College in Hong Kong until he was 13, and then Stuyvesant High School in New York City
Bachelor degree: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Architecture)
Master's degree: Boston State College (Biligual Education), Harvard University (Public Administration)
Political Party: N/A

Government career

1982: Joined the civil service as Assistant District Officer for Shatin

1987-1992: Administrative Assistant to the Financial Secretary, Sir Piers Jacobs

1992-1995: Assistant Director-General of Trade

1995-1997: Private Secretary to the Governor

1997-1999: Director-General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London

1999-2001: Commissioner of Customs and Excise

2001-2002: Secretary for Planning and Lands

2002-2003: Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands)

2003-2006: Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology

2006-2007: Office of the Chief Executive

2007-2017: Financial Secretary


John Tsang is expected to bid for Hong Kong chief executive position 


Woo Kwok-hing

As Chairman of Electoral Affairs Commission (ECA), Woo Kwok-hing was responsible for running and supervising elections in Hong Kong shortly after Chris Patten became Hong Kong’s last Governor and established the electoral organ. Woo handled the first three Chief Executive elections, which selected Tung Chee-hwa (1997-2005) and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen (2005-2012) for the post.   

After retiring as the ECA Chairman in 2006, Woo served as Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance until 2012. 

Birthday: January 13, 1946
Age: 71
Secondary School: Ying Wa College
Bachelor degree: University of Birmingham (Law)
Master's degree: University College London (Law)
Political Party: N/A

Public career

1992-2000: Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court

1993-2006: Chairman of Electoral Affairs Commission

2000-2004: Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court

2004-2011: Vice-president of the Court of Appeal of the High Court

Edited by Heidi Yeung

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