The Challenge Begins for Leung as New Leader of Hong Kong

April 10, 2012 Updated: August 12, 2013

The fourth Chief Executive Election race in Hong Kong came to an end on Sunday against the backdrop of protesters calling for an end of Chinese regime’s control over the former British colony. 

Leung Chun-ying, who is publically acknowledged as having Communist Party support and the Chinese Liaison Office behind him, won the first round of voting with 689 votes. That represented just over half of the possible 1200 votes from the committee of powerful pro-Beijing tycoons and officials. 

His rival, Mr Henry Tang, won 285 votes. Mr Albert Ho from the pan-democratic camp won 76 votes.

The latest race for leadership in Asia’s business hub of 7 million people has become to be known as “the battle between the pig and the wolf”, due to the constant exposure of scandals involving the main two candidates. 

It has also become the first time ever for the elections to receive so much pressure and protest from Hong Kongers from all walks of life. To voice their dissatisfaction, 220 thousand people staged a mock referendum where more than half of the ballot papers were blank.

Hundreds gathered outside the Legislative Assembly on Sunday, when the election result was announced, while another march is planned for the weekend, to call for an end to Chinese Communist interference in Hong Kong affairs. 

Leung is widely known to be a pro-CCP supporter and has been labelled as a “closet communist” in the media. However, some say there are positive signs of change. 

Faced with its own factional power struggles, Beijing appears to be losing control. Even Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing dared to not vote for Leung, giving his vote to the rival Mr Henry Tang.

Many scholars believe that Leung’s less-than-landslide win of votes and limited support by citizens will bring a governance crisis for the Beijing-backed new Chief executive. 

Hong Kongers are already less willing to believe in the CCP promises and Hong Kong people’s grievances are growing. 

However, others are less optimistic. Associate Professor Chan King Ming from The Chinese University of Hong Kong believes Leung is yet another Beijing-controlled puppet, much like the previous three Chief Executives. 

“He is a puppet of the Communist Party, personally arranged for by them to take over the affairs of Hong Kong. This has caused the Hong Kong people to feel angry and helpless, as our core values are being seriously compromised. 

He also expressed concern over the promise of Universal Suffrage—a thorn for communist China in the “one-country-two-systems” policy granted to Hong Kong. Universal Suffrage is the right for all citizens to elect their leader in a direct vote, which has been demanded by the people since 1997, but is not due to be implemented until 2017.

“We worry that the Chinese Communists’ promise for universal suffrage by 2017 will not become a reality. It seems the election will always be won by someone hand-picked by the Chinese Communists,” said Chang. 

Since the 1997 handover from British rule to Mainland China, intervention in Hong Kong has been wide-spread, thinks Chan. 

“We have seen a lot of lamentable things occur. The mainland political system completely controls Hong Kong here, it’s very upsetting and frustrating.”

Chan also expressed concern that after taking office Leung would make a show of great effort in implementing the so-called compulsory national education. He may also attempt to push for the controversial anti-subversion “Article 23” legislation. In 2001 thousands protested the legislation that would have severely diminished civil liberties enjoyed in Hong Kong.

These two campaigns would effectively destroy Hong Kong’s core values, including freedom of speech, assembly, press and other such freedoms, believes Chan. 

“We are most concerned that the mode of governance in the mainland will be brought to Hong Kong, resulting in collusion between the Government and business sectors, behind-the-scenes “black box” politics, which will damage Hong Kong’s business economy environment. 

Leung takes office in June from the exiting Chief Executive Donald Tsang, whose leadership has been plagued with constant protests against his failed housing, health and civil liberties policies.

Now Leung faces a challenge of either continuing Tsang’s legacy or making a firmer commitment to part with China’s control.

Senior Lecturer at the Department of Government and Public Administration at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ivan Choy thinks that Leung faces three issues: limited votes for him, limited hope in him and limited cohesion with him.

“With many of the major political platforms in society, he is unable to bring things together for them. For example, you can see that in the industry and commerce sector, the finance and banking sector, the property sector and other such platforms, their attitude towards him is noticeably reserved.”