Tsang raises over $500k for election through crowdfunding

Chief executive contender John Tsang  has raised more than HK$3 million (S$545,000) within days of launching a crowdfunding drive to fund his campaign.
Chief executive contender John Tsang has raised more than HK$3 million (S$545,000) within days of launching a crowdfunding drive to fund his campaign.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Ex-finance chief said to be using social media more often than his rivals in race to be HK's next chief executive

HONG KONG • Chief executive contender John Tsang has raised more than HK$3 million (S$545,000) within days of launching a crowdfunding drive to fund his campaign.

As of 10pm last Saturday, more than 15,000 people had donated a total of HK$3.37 million to the former financial secretary, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

"(The money raised) is a very good amount," he said in a video on his Facebook page when it reached HK$2.6 million.

"I'm very grateful to the public for support and donations. It doesn't matter whether the amount is big or small."

The 65-year-old, according to SCMP, has used social media more frequently than his rivals in the race for the city's top job, a strategy aimed at blocking Beijing's apparent backing for key rival Carrie Lam.

Mr Tsang said he picked a crowdfunding platform run by a Hong Kong company to encourage the development of local start-ups.

GRATEFUL FOR SUPPORT

I'm very grateful to the public for support and donations. It doesn't matter whether the amount is big or small.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE CONTENDER JOHN TSANG. He said any surplus from the drive would be donated to charity.

If there was any surplus from his crowdfunding drive, the money would be donated to charity, he added. His office has declared an estimated campaign budget of HK$15.7 million, which is the maximum allowed.

According to an article published at the end of last month, Mr Tsang has had 32 Facebook posts since he formally announced his election bid on Jan 19 - or 2.7 posts per day.

This compares with 2.1 posts per day for retired High Court judge Woo Kwok Hing and 1.8 posts per day for former security secretary Regina Ip, leader of the New People's Party. Both are also in the running for the top job.

Mrs Lam, 59, does not have a Facebook page yet.

Commenting on Mr Tsang's campaign, she concedes it is "better prepared" than hers, according to SCMP.

"Their use of social media was more mature and better prepared... We will roll out details later on how people can donate towards my electioneering," Mrs Lam said when asked about Mr Tsang's crowdfunding success.

"What is most important is that any format (for raising funds) must be in line with Hong Kong's election laws."

Mrs Lam, often described as an "Iron Lady" lacking a soft, personal touch, seems to be trying to soften her image.

In a U-turn decision, she said recently she would open a Facebook account "as soon as possible" to reach out to young people.

Just last month, she said that she had no plans to open such an account.

"I like to be hands-on, but I don't like opening a Facebook (account) to let other people manage it - and there is technical difficulty in learning to do it well in a short time," she said on a radio show last month.

Although Mr Tsang has consistently been the front runner in opinion polls on the public's choice for chief executive, Mrs Lam is seen as Beijing's favoured candidate.

Hong Kong's chief executive is chosen by a committee of 1,194 mainly pro-Beijing representatives.

Before the vote on March 26, candidates must receive 150 nominations from the committee in order to qualify for the race.

Observers told SCMP the public relations teams behind Mrs Lam and Mr Tsang may explain their different approaches to engagement.

Mrs Lam, said SCMP, is surrounded by a PR team consisting of people of her generation who occupy managerial jobs in private corporations or public institutions.

Mr Tsang, on the other hand, relies on his old colleagues in the government who had experience dealing with the media.

He delegated his Facebook account to his trusted aide, former Ming Pao editor Julian Law who once served as his political assistant.

Mr Tsang was the first Hong Kong minister to have an official Facebook page. He garnered 54,000 followers last year, according to SCMP. The figure has shot up to close to 90,000 as of yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Tsang raises over $500k for election through crowdfunding'. Print Edition | Subscribe