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Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung will not seek re-election due to family reasons

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has made a surprise announcement that he will not seek re-election due to family reasons.

“If I run my family will suffer unbearable pressure due to my electioneering ... I must protect them,” he told a press briefing.

He said his decision was not due to any lack of endorsement from the central government.

“[Beijing] has always supported me and said I have done a good job,” Leung said.

Asked if the decision stemmed from the condition of his daughter Leung Chai-yan, he said he did not want to delve deeply into his personal life, but said: “As a husband and father I have a responsibility ... My daughter has only one father, and my wife has only one husband.”

On Thursday night, he was seen at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, but he refused to comment on his daughter’s situation.

He added that his past political career had already impacted his family.

Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily reported earlier this week that Chai-yan had been hospitalised for a month.

In 2014, she posted a photograph on Facebook that appeared to show her lying in a bathtub with a slashed wrist and the water tinged red. “Will I bleed to death?” she wrote.

In March last year she wrote on social media that she had “officially” left home, a day after claiming online that she had been in a violent row with her mother.

Leung had repeatedly told media “there was no message” yet when asked whether he would seek a second term in March.

During a trip to an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Peru last month, Leung said President Xi Jinping had approved of his work in office. But the chief executive later said the remarks should not be interpreted as an endorsement of further political ambitions.

Leung assumed office as Hong Kong’s third chief executive in 2012, succeeding Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Prior to assuming the city’s top post, he served as a member of the Executive Council from 1997 to 2011.

On Friday, Leung refused to comment on who he would support to be the next chief executive, but said he would back anyone who managed to win majority support from the Election Committee. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee are both widely expected to run.

Ip said she was “shocked” but respected Leung’s decision not to run.

“His statement moved me a lot,” she said. “He has my every sympathy.”

She added that Leung’s decision not to seek re-election would not affect how she viewed her bid for the top job.

“Leung’s decision makes no difference to me,” she said. “Even one day is too long in politics. All I can say is that I am always committed to serving Hong Kong.”

She stressed she would only formally announce her decision on whether to run next week after seeking approval from her New People’s Party at its annual general meeting. If given the go-ahead she would resign from her post in the Executive Council.

“Whether one has a red light or a green light from Beijing is not important,” she said, adding that she had no plans to meet officials from the central government’s liaison office again. “What matters most is whether the person has a strong determination to serve Hongkongers.”

Another potential candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, said he still considered himself the “most suitable candidate” even though Leung, the inspiration for his candidacy, was now out of the picture.

Woo criticised Ip for “not knowing a thing” about the national security bill, which she failed to push through when she was the city’s security secretary in 2003.

Meanwhile, the city’s democratic camp said it would only celebrate Leung’s withdrawal “for one night” and remain vigilant in case Beijing gave its blessing to another hardline candidate.

Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said the chief executive timed his decision to throw off those who planned to oppose him ahead of the Election Committee’s meeting on Sunday.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu urged caution after the chief executive’s announcement, saying: “CY Leung is gone, but here comes Regina Ip.”

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, a leading proponent of the “Anyone But CY” drive, was likewise wary.

“Hongkongers could be a bit happier this week,” he said. “But you must stay vigilant as some ‘liars’ never keep their word.”

Meanwhile, lawmaker and Executive Council member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung confirmed that the chief executive’s daughter was in hospital but said he was “a bit surprised” by his decision.

“I know his daughter has been hospitalised for a while,” he said. “I think his care for his family should be respected and understood. Family is important to everyone.”

He praised Leung’s contributions to Hong Kong in recent years, especially on housing.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council issued a statement saying it respected Leung’s decision. It said he had “steadfastly implemented the ‘one country, two systems’ formula and the Basic Law”, and had made important contributions in defending the sovereignty of the state, security, development and Hong Kong’s stability. It added that the central government had always fully recognised and rated his work highly.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-establishment political party, also expressed surprised at Leung’s decision, but added she fully recognised his contributions.

“As a responsible voter, it is too early to decide,” she said when asked if her party would support Ip in Leung’s absence. She said her party would not attend Ip’s rally next week.

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said the next chief executive should be able to communicate with society and lawmakers more effectively.

“Leung has had good policies but he failed to communicate well with the public,” Leung said before an event in Shenzhen on industrial development on Friday, which the chief executive also attended.

The top-ranking Legco official would not say if the business circle – from which he came – would prefer the financial secretary as the city’s next leader.