Who will be first? Hong Kong people are waiting to see who will announce their candidacy for the chief executive election. And, indeed, the race has already started; there is much backroom preparation work to be done – the most important of which is to get Beijing’s support. Another critical task is to line up a credible governing team. When the race formally begins, the horses have to burst out of their stalls full of confidence.
There is also another task that should not be underestimated: to be ready for what your opponent may do. This includes not just the other candidates but all those who will challenge you from the sidelines in the fight.
What skeletons are lurking in the cupboard? Minor misdemeanours in one’s youth, such as occasional drunkenness, may be excusable. But more serious matters, such as falsifying information about one’s academic or other qualifications, may not be. That, after all, would be an indication of dishonesty.
The aspiring candidates can be sure that someone, somewhere is checking out their past. Once they have announced they will run, they become fair game for intense scrutiny.
Two areas are of particular interest – sex and money. Taiwan’s dashing president, Ma Ying-jeou, has been asked many times how he has resisted sexual temptation. His answer is instructive. Those who aspire to high public office, Ma says, should know what not to do. He is quite different from most in that, from a very young age, he was groomed for politics by his father. Good personal behaviour was expected at all times, lest the past come back to haunt him.
Most people aren’t like that; very few have an upbringing where they are constantly concerned that, one day, someone will dig deeply into their past, searching for misbehaviour that can be made public.
Many politicians have been caught out. Most recently, the secretary general of a local political party resigned after being seen visiting a prostitute. A number of candidates running in elections in Hong Kong have had to step down after their sexual encounters were revealed by the media.
This is not to say that any aspiring chief executive candidate has skeletons in his or her closet, but someone is no doubt sniffing around. Only the aspirants know if there is anything to find.
Then there is money. People want to know what assets politicians hold, how they made their money and who they may be beholden to. Thus, previous employment records and business affiliations or associations are important. They all help paint a better picture of the person in question and whether this person is suitable for high office, where integrity is essential.
All the aspiring chief executive candidates have had extensive business and professional careers or been affiliated with various business interests. Someone must be hunting for evidence of dodgy deals and questionable affiliations. Presumably, the candidates are working with their campaign teams on how to deal with attacks, should they arise.
Right now, only a person with no skeletons in their cupboard can rest easy. But does such a person exist?