Hong Kong Election Committee Selects Leung as Chief Executive
March 26, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On March 25, the self-made millionaire property consultant Leung Chun-ying defeated opponent Henry Tang in the race to become the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Albert Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party, also was a candidate in the election, but was never expected to be a real contender. Ho only received 76 votes and criticized the election result as a “disgusting” display of “blatant interference” from Beijing. Leung won 689 of the 1200 votes from the election committee made up of known pro-Beijing individuals with business and political interests or “function constituencies.” According to Bloomberg Businessweek, different sectors receive a certain amount of slots. For example, the insurance industry receives 18 slots, lawyers get 30 and real estate and construction get 18. Tang only ended up with 285 votes. The election was the most divisive since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Initially, Tang seemed like the favored candidate. The New York Times described him as a local favorite, the son of wealthy industrialists from Shanghai who fled the communist takeover in 1949. The entire business community seemed united in its support for Tang, however the campaign suffered from scandals involving marriage infidelity and the illegal building of a huge basement under his wife’s villa. In the end, over 100 of his supporters on the election committee defected and voted for Leung. Meanwhile Leung’s critics called him a closet communist and painted him as a staunch supporter of Beijing’s policies. Reuters reported that this point is important for the next election slated in 2017, which democracy activists hope will be a direct election based on universal suffrage. They fear Beijing will not keep its promise to extend universal suffrage to Hong Kong residents and that Leung will cave before pressure from the mainland. The election for the Chief Executive is an oddity for Hong Kong, which still enjoys a freely elected legislature, uncensored media and other freedoms not found on the mainland. Even anti-government protests are tolerated. Therefore residents are eager to directly elect the Chief Executive in 2017.
The Register reported that Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Program set up the ‘Civic Referendum Project’ to track what the result of the election would have been if the voting been direct. Due to activities of two hackers that have since been arrested, only 220,000 residents were able to take part in the poll and over half of them chose to invalidate their responses to clarify that they did not support any of the candidates. Some speculate the two hackers are connected to the mainland government, which is known to conduct cyber-attacks on its own or allow “patriotic” users to do so if their actions align with government needs.
Leung appealed for unity amongst Hong Kong residents following the announcement of his victory. However, according to Reuters, many doubt his political skills and do not think he has the ability to make sure Hong Kong remains Asia’s financial gateway. Others are concerned that Leung will not defend the unique political freedoms that exist in Hong Kong. Politics and financial markets aside, Leung will face many challenges over the next five years as Hong Kong has its own share of domestic problems like pollution, property inflation and a growing gap between the rich and poor.
For previous news on China, please see:
Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping Visits Washington, DC
Reuters - New Hong Kong leader faces stiff test after poll win
The New York Times - In Hong Kong Elections, Some Chinese See Enviable Openness
The Statesman - Ex-property consultant wins Hong Kong election
Business Week - Hong Kong's Election Committee Puzzles Over Its Choice
The Register - Election poll shot down by DDoS-ers