Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong’s number two official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor submitted her resignation Thursday and it was passed on to the central government in Beijing. Lam will hold a press conference at 5pm local time.

This is a move widely expected to pave the way for her to run in the chief executive election this March.

But her candidacy depends on whether Beijing will approve her resignation and raises a rare case of two secretaries battling for the top job – to replace incumbent Leung Chun-ying to become Hong Kong’s next leader. Leung will not run.

The city’s financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has also expressed his will to run for the top post and submitted his resignation exactly a month ago, on December 12. His departure is also still pending Beijing’s approval and he has yet to formally declare his candidacy.

In December, Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong-Macau Studies, said it was unlikely for two secretaries to resign and receive approval to run in the race for Hong Kong’s next chief executive election.  The association is a semi-official research institute supervised by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council of China.

The office of Lam, the chief secretary since 2012, gave no response to media reports and she is in a senior civil servants’ meeting today. Radio and Television Hong Kong and Hong Kong Cable Television both reported Lam’s submission of her resignation, citing unnamed sources.

Read: Wanted – outstanding candidate to run Asian financial hub … 

Lam, 59, could be the fourth candidate to join the race after retired High Court justice Woo Kwok-hing, legislative councillor and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and a former pro-Beijing party member Wu Sai-chuen announced their bids late last year.

The British handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a special arrangement known as “one country, two systems,” enjoying a high degree of autonomy and preserving freedoms that were not enjoyed in mainland China. However, Beijing still retains the right to appoint principal officials in town.

A 1,200-strong election committee, dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists and business elites, will vote to pick the next chief executive on March 26. A candidate must secure 601 votes, members of the public are excluded from this small-circle election and the candidate ultimately must have the approval of Beijing.

Read: John Tsang neck and neck with Carrie Lam in leadership poll

The 79-day Occupy Movement that began in September 2014, paralysing traffic in the central business district had been aimed at achieving further democratisation of the chief executive election and of the legislature in September 2016.