It has not been the best week for newly elected Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who’s already garnered loud criticism for appearing too close to Beijing — and he was the “popular” candidate!
“Beijing blatantly interfered in our election,” said retiree Lam Sum-shing, 69, who was wearing a green army uniform and a mask with Leung’s photo. “I’m wearing this to show he will be a yes man for Beijing. He was not chosen by the seven million Hong Kong people, he was chosen by 689 pro-Beijing elitists.”
Given that Hong Kong residents fiercely guard their autonomy under the “one China, two systems” rubric whereby prior freedoms under British colonial rule — press freedom, economic liberalization, rights to assembly — are meant to continue for at least 50 years in the special administrative region, this was perhaps not Leung’s smartest move — especially given the rumors during the election campaign that Leung was a secret member of the Chinese Communist Party.
China’s leadership has promised full elections among the Hong Kong populace in the next election in 2017.
Leung — dubbed a “wolf” in the local media for his supposed craftiness — won “election” from the 1,200-member Elections Committee over Henry Tang on March 25. Tang was a favorite of local real estate developers and other tycoons who view Leung as less pro-development — Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho famously vowed to pull his economic interests out of Hong Kong in the event of a Leung victory and railed against Leung as someone who “hates the rich.”
But Tang was originally viewed as the frontrunner and the Beijing favorite as well — the PRC view changed as Tang became engulfed in a number of embarrassing scandals. The drumbeat of scandal intensified after press stories linked current chief executive Donald Tsang to taking unauthorized gifts from businessmen as well. With the election completed, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption moved last week to arrest several Hong Kong tycoons, including Thomas and Raymond Kwok — the two brothers are among the richest men in the world and their company, Sun Hung Kai Properties, built the International Finance Centre, Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper.
Former chief secretary Anson Chan indicated that Leung’s visit was significant and called it an “act of defiance.” She noted that it rightly raises concerns that Beijing will have a stronger hand in governing Hong Kong in the next five years:
“It’s a fact that CY is our next chief executive,” Chan said today. “We should give him a chance. In the next few weeks, we’ll see what kind of team he puts together, which will give us an indication on how he will rule. I don’t at this stage want to protest.”
Chan said that Leung’s choice of chief secretary will demonstrate a clearer indication of where Leung’s administration is headed. For example, the selection of Carrie Lam, the current secretary for development, would send a positive signal to Hong Kong.
Although he has indicated he will focus primarily on economic matters, especially affordable housing, Leung has indicated he will revisit Hong Kong’s long-proposed and long-controversial anti-subversion law — also known as Article 23. Hong Kong’s governments have shied away from the issue since 2003 protests against the law forced then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to resign from office.