Hong Kong chooses a new man at the top

24.03.2012 - Hong Kong - Tony Henderson

The great majority of Hong Kong’s seven million residents have no right to vote in this election, thus the term “small circle election” that will be decided by a 1,200-member election committee comprised of ‘safe’ locals, seen as pro-Beijing and as social and business elites who presume their healthy future lies in allying with underlying dictates of Beijing.

Former government adviser Leung Chun-ying is now widely seen as China’s preferred choice – which is streetwise guesswork largely, but he is now tipped to beat his only rival, Henry ‘Wine Cellar’ Tang, after Leung’s campaign was boosted by the support of the city’s biggest pro-Beijing party, who, one could imagine would be ‘in the know’!

Friend and local resident Chris Donnolley said on his Facebook page: *“Today, a select group of fewer than 1,200 billionaires and other elites will ‘elect’ Hong Kong’s next leader, called appropriately in a company town, the Chief Executive. Most of these cronies will choose who they think is Beijing’s choice. Yesterday and Friday, 223,000 ordinary Hongkongers, who are excluded from this process, voted in a mock CE election organised by HK University, with a whopping 55 per cent informal vote. This was achieved despite a constant cyber attack on HKU’s computer system.”*

Activists of all flavours have been protesting the government vote. Thousands of demonstrators are at this moment rallying outside the polling station at the city’s harbourside convention centre to press for universal suffrage as the poll is carried out. Radical lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung arrived in a yellow emperor suit, a pig-wolf mask and holding a paper-mache tank, shouting “I am the king and kingmaker”, in a theatrical parody of the election process.

Polling started at 9am and lasts till 11am with results expected around 12:30pm – and must be the shortest and most efficient election on Earth today.

Election committee members, which include Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, who backs Tang, will cast their vote through paper ballots. To win, a candidate must secure at least 601 votes, or over half of the votes, and if two rounds of voting fail to produce a winner, a fresh election will be scheduled for May. That is a distinct possibility, especially seen that but Premier Wen Jiabao has said the next chief executive must command the support of the “vast majority” of Hong Kong’s people. Beijing has not openly backed any candidate.

As to the candidates themselves: Tang, the heir to a textile fortune and the city government’s former Number Two was believed to have Beijing’s backing until a series of personal scandals and gaffes reportedly prompted a shift in support to Leung – one such gaffe when he allowed his wife to accept blame for his illegal underfloor building.

Leung, a police officer’s son, has also come under media scrutiny and faced claims that he has links to triad figures and has a hidden communist agenda – allegations he denies – a communist in Hong Kong, now there’s a rare thing…

Starting off as a second thought only, Leung began ranking ahead of Tang in public opinion polls, in increments, as Tang displayed his hopelessness on all fronts. Another puppet type which has suited Hong Kong’s business people who want minimum interference with their day-to-day activities. The predecessors both clung to that policy but in reality proved decent options as any radical moves by locals would be more than frowned upon by Beijing – no doubt about it.

Everyone is in agreement that third candidate, democracy campaigner Albert Ho, is a 100:1 outsider and unlikely to win. However, he is a worthwhile politician who has real insight into democratic values and is intelligent and unafraid so clearly his chances are very limited!

Beijing has not openly backed any candidate but Premier Wen Jiabao has said the next chief executive must command the support of the “vast majority” of Hong Kong’s people.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control from British rule in 1997, with a semi-autonomous status that guarantees broad social freedoms under limited democracy. Beijing has said that, at the earliest, the city’s chief executive could be directly elected in 2017 and the legislature by 2020. People assume this will be delayed yet again.

The new Chief Executive – the third post-handover representative – will replace current Chief Executive Donald Tsang, whose term ends in June.

**UPDATE**
**March 26, 2010:**

**Leung Chun-ying 57, will replace outgoing chief executive Donald Tsang in June after winning 689 of the votes from the 1 200-strong election committee.
His main rival, Henry Tang, finished with 285 and pro-democracy candidate Albert Ho on 76.**

Categories: Asia, International, Politics

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