HONG KONG • The Chinese state leader who oversees Hong Kong affairs has reportedly told the city's business and political heavyweights that Mrs Carrie Lam is Beijing's preferred candidate for the territory's top job.
Mr Zhang Dejiang conveyed the message to a group of business chambers and pro-establishment figures during meetings held in Shenzhen earlier this week, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The SCMP, which cited a source with knowledge of the meetings on Sunday and Monday, said the decision to back Mrs Lam was made last December by the Communist Party's highest body.
"The decision was made at the meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee on Dec 25," the source was quoted as saying.
Mr Zhang, the third-ranking leader in the party's Politburo, is head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Citing Mrs Lam's lengthy administrative experience and her "patriotism", Mr Zhang said she was the sole candidate preferred by Beijing.
A pro-Beijing source told the Radio Free Asia website that Mr Zhang's main audience during his Shenzhen trip was made up of a relatively high proportion of business people with seats on the Election Committee, particularly those who are undecided.
Mrs Lam, Hong Kong's former No. 2 official, is widely seen as Beijing's pick in the four-way chief executive race, but she trails behind former financial secretary John Tsang in popularity polls.
Hong Kong's next leader will be picked by the 1,194-member Election Committee on March 26.
A candidate needs 150 nominations from the same committee by March 1 to be eligible, and 601 to clinch the job. The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, which controls 18 seats, has said all its representatives will vote for Mrs Lam, reported The Standard.