Former secretary for security Regina Ip said she still wants to enact an unpopular law that saw her quit in 2003 as she launched her "Win back Hong Kong" campaign for the city's top leadership post.
"I wish the Hong Kong we all love can be put back on the right track. I feel my call is to stand forward and walk the extra mile for Hong Kong," said Mrs Ip, 66, co-founder of the pro-Beijing New People's Party.
She kicked off her campaign at a rally attended by about 200 supporters, including former chief secretary David Akers-Jones, casino heiress Pansy Ho and lawmakers.
THROWING HAT INTO THE RING
I wish the Hong Kong we all love can be put back on the right track. I feel my call is to stand forward and walk the extra mile for Hong Kong.
MRS REGINA IP, co-founder of New People's Party, at a rally to launch her election campaign
Mrs Ip is the second person, after retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, to officially throw her hat into the ring for the March 26 Chief Executive election.
Two others - Mr John Tsang, who resigned as financial secretary on Monday, and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam - are widely believed to be awaiting Beijing's green light before announcing their candidacy.
Yesterday morning, Mrs Ip resigned as a non-official member of the Executive Council (Exco) before announcing her candidacy. Her resignation was accepted by Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, who expressed in a statement his gratitude to Mrs Ip "for her valuable advice and contribution to policy- making" since 2012.
In her speech yesterday, Mrs Ip noted how developments such as the massive pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 and recent oath-taking controversy have led to "unprecedented division and hostility among Hong Kong's society", and rallied for support to help her "pave a way for the next generation".
Hong Kongers should not be too afraid of Article 23, which bans acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government, because "this kind of law exists in every country", said Mrs Ip, who spearheaded the government's push for Article 23 in 2003 which saw half a million people take to the streets in protest. The Bill was eventually shelved and she resigned from her post the same year. She acknowledged yesterday she did not handle the matter well.
After her resignation, she took a sabbatical to study in the United States. In 2008, she ran in the Legislative Council (Legco) elections and won a seat in the Hong Kong Island constituency. She was re-elected in 2012 and most recently in September, when she won the highest number of votes among all female candidates to retain her Hong Kong Island seat.
She faltered in the Chief Executive race in 2012 after failing to secure enough nominations from the 1,200-member Election Committee, which picks the Chief Executive. This time, she said she is more well-prepared and is confident of securing the minimum 150 nominations.
On her election website, Mrs Ip listed nine policy areas: land and housing, the economy, public finance, government reorganisation; retirement protection, education, environmental protection, culture and sports development, and constitutional reform.
Political analyst Johnny Lau noted how Mrs Ip covered many areas in her election campaign. But most importantly, she emphasised her intention to enforce Article 23, which will be appreciated by Beijing, he said.
"The situation (now) is different from 2003. With the rise in separatist movements, maybe some Hong Kongers do think that this is the right time to pass Article 23," he added.
Lam fires first salvo at Tsang
They have yet to launch their bids to become Hong Kong's next Chief Executive, but already the city's No. 2, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, has launched a veiled attack at Mr John Tsang, who resigned as Financial Secretary on Tuesday.
Mrs Lam criticised a report by Mr Tsang's long-term fiscal planning working group, which she said unfairly described ageing as a threat to the city's economic growth.
Pledging to reduce inequality and fight for more help for the elderly and underprivileged, she outlined what could be the early contours of a campaign platform at a closed-door event, reported the South China Morning Post.
"Lam struck at the core of Tsang's philosophy as she called for more action to soften the impact of capitalism," it said yesterday.
The two top officials are widely expected to vie for the city's top job after Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said last Friday that he would not seek a second term.
Political analyst Johnny Lau said: "If Beijing has not shown the 'green light', normally no (pro-establishment) candidate would dare to proceed. But Tsang is an exception because he is supported by the tycoons in Hong Kong. Even if he loses, he can just retire."
Mr Lau believes Beijing may have encouraged Mrs Lam to join the race, judging from how she seemed to have changed her mind, saying on Saturday she will seriously reconsider running. Mr Lau also said Mrs Lam's criticism of Mr Tsang's report could be part of Beijing's strategy to reduce his popularity.
"At this moment, Beijing has its preferences but I don't think it has made up its mind," Mr Lau said.
Correction note: In a previous version of this story, it was stated that Regina Ip won the second highest number of votes, when it should have been the highest number of votes among all female candidates. We are sorry for the error.