Editor’s note: In the run-up to the chief executive election on Sunday, China Daily talked to foreign experts based in Hong Kong for their opinions on the upcoming poll and the new electoral system. In the third story of this series, “Foreign Insights: Election”, we have Allan Zeman, the chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group and an old friend to readers in Hong Kong. Here is the full transcript of the interview.

Allan Zeman, Chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, speaks during the "International Communication in the New Era" forum on May 31, 2021. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

1. Hong Kong will hold its sixth chief executive election on May 8. The election is the first CE poll under the improved electoral system. What do you think about that?

I am very positive about the improved electoral system of patriots governing Hong Kong. I believe in the past since the handover in 1997, the divisions within society created problems for every CE. I believe this new system will be able to bring more likeminded people together and unite HK people to achieve greater prosperity.

2. Changes to the electoral system were put in place to ensure there are “patriots administering Hong Kong”. How do you perceive the necessity for these changes and their impact on the city’s future development?

In the past LegCo was stuck. It was very difficult to get bills to pass because of the many filibusters, which caused great harm to governance and created a huge bottleneck preventing various bills from being passed quickly. The new system will unblock everything in LegCo and allow the prosperity of Hong Kong to continue.

3. Hong Kong’s electoral system has seen changes from time to time since the city’s return to the country in 1997. But one of the constants in these changes has been criticisms from the West concerning the efforts made by the central government and the SAR government. In your opinion, what’s at stake for these critics in Hong Kong’s electoral revamp?

The West obviously will continue to criticize Hong Kong as they feel that this will present a bad image to the world of China. The West does not understand the success of the Chinese system and portrays it in a negative light to their people. Hong Kong is part of China and the West should not interfere in Hong Kong’s future.

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4. What traits do you believe the city’s new leader should have? John Lee Ka-chiu has garnered nominations from over half of the Election Committee members to run for the election. Does this mean that he has wide acceptance among Hong Kong’s various sectors? How will such recognition help Lee’s administration if he is elected?

I believe that many people in Hong Kong do not see John Lee as a CE because most of his life has been spent in the security field. Since he announced his candidacy, he has had many press conferences on a daily basis. His results-oriented ideas, bringing back the competitiveness of Hong Kong and addressing the city’s housing problems, are high on his agenda. He also advocates simplifying a lot of the bureaucracy which occurs in government and the civil service at the moment. Many people in Hong Kong are now beginning to understand and believe that he will be an advocate for change to make the lives of the people better. This also includes creating a better future for the youth. Hong Kong has been sorely lacking in all these areas and I believe once he puts a strong team together to work with him, these results can be achieved.

5. What do you think of John Lee? Have you come into contact with him during his 40 years in public service?

I have known John Lee for many years and have always found him to be strong when he has to be and very open minded at other times. He likes to listen and to solve problems in order to get results quickly. I believe this is because of his training in security. He also has the trust of China, which is very important for the CE. I am very confident that the next 5 years will present great growth opportunities for Hong Kong and will finally unite society.

6. Lee recently unveiled his political platform and three policy directions. What’s your take on them? Do you think your sector can benefit from the proposals?

I believe his political platform and three policy directions will benefit every sector in Hong Kong. At the moment Hong Kong suffers from too many regulations which are duplicated in many sectors and I believe his results-oriented policies will benefit every business and serve to increase efficiency. I also agree that making Hong Kong more competitive will continue to attract international businesses, including those from the mainland. This as well will bring new brain power to Hong Kong which in the long run will help the economy to grow rapidly. John Lee has addressed almost every sector in Hong Kong and has also given a results timeline of a 100 days. All of Hong Kong can only benefit from this. 

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7. Because of the characteristics of Hong Kong’s election system, sometimes the CE election will be uncontested. Some people hold that such a mechanism undermines the fairness of the election. What’s your view on that?

I do understand that this election timing is very extraordinary because of omicron. The government had to delay the first nomination period by more than a month and needed to have May 8 as the last possible day for the election. I agree with the decision to have one candidate in this instance as there was only a month left before the election day, which is very difficult to change. Having more than one candidate would not have allowed time for debates and would have potentially divided the votes. It’s better to have one candidate in this circumstance. I believe in the future when there’s more time the government will go back to having more than one candidate.