Isabella Steger: Leaked Chats on Vote Strategy Leave Hong Kong Lawmakers Reeling


Isabella Steger reports: Beijing is striving to present a united front with its supporters in Hong Kong’s legislature, even as the pro-establishment camp is rocked by a series of leaked online conversations related to last week’s failed vote on a 2017 election overhaul.

“According to the leaked conversations published by the Oriental Daily, participants in the online chat included Jasper Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing politician who is also the president of the legislature. The conversation shows Mr. Tsang was involved in the discussion last Thursday morning to orchestrate the timing of the vote.”

On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper published a series of conversations among a group of pro-Beijing lawmakers on the popular mobile messaging service Whatsapp, showing the internal debate before the vote took place and the politicians’ reactions afterwards.

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday.
Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

“That compromised Mr. Tsang’s obligation to remain neutral as president of the Legislative Council, opposition lawmakers said, with some demanding that he step down.”

Pro-Beijing lawmakers last week attempted to stage a walkout of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to delay a vote on the election plan. Yet the tactic backfired: The vote was not postponed, and the package – which had been expected to narrowly fall short of passage – met a resounding defeat. In the wake of the vote, pro-Beijing lawmakers such as Regina Ip, a former security secretary, and Jeffrey Lam, who initiated the walkout, delivered emotional public apologies over the blunder.

“Everyone who could be a potential defector in the opposition has already spoken, it doesn’t look like there will be a change to the final result.”

— Mr. Tsang wrote in the chat, according to the leaked transcripts

The election plan, which for the first time would grant the public the right to vote for the city’s top leader, is opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers because it only allows pre-screened candidates to run. While pro-Beijing lawmakers hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislature, the pro-democracy camp’s opposition to the measure denied it the two-thirds majority required for passage. Read the rest of this entry »