On March 25, Leung Chun-Yin (梁振英) was elected as the fourth-term Chief Executive of Hong Kong by a 1,200 member committee of academics and businesspersons. Leung, former convenor of the Non-Official Members of the Executive Council, won 689 votes. The competitors, Henry Tang (唐英年), former chief secretary of the city government, and Albert Ho (何俊仁), a lawmaker, garnered 285 votes and 76 votes respectively. But the public approval for Leung is an all-time low (popularity ratings are below 35 percent), and allegations made against Leung’s background are surfacing more and more (he was part of the Communist Party, etc.). His victory raises the question for the seven million concerned citizens of Hong Kong, what is on Leung’s agenda?
The 1,200-persons Election Committee accounts for less than 0.017 percent of the population of Hong Kong. Yet the Chief Executive anointed by this small-circle will act functionally as a president analog. He will effectively head the government of Hong Kong, and sign bills and budgets passed by the Legislative Council; these are the duties and powers enumerated under the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s constitution).
Originally under British rule, Hong Kong’s sovereignty was restored back in 1997, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Declaration drafted the Basic Law, and determined the capitalist autonomy for Hong Kong for which it was already practicing. Not delineated, however, was when Hong would be allowed to hold free elections. On December 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) issued a ruling that Hong Kong will be granted universal suffrage in its election of its fifth-term election for the Chief Executive in 2017. But as these revisions were not made for this 2012 election, it’s possible the promised revisions for 2017 will also fall through. Until then, 1,200 will speak for seven million people.
Thus, the situation is seemingly Putinesque. Elections that are considered fair, or will become hopefully fair, have no guarantee. In the election, Leung is the Beijing-backed candidate, so it was not surprising that he came out as the frontrunner, when selected by an Election Committee with many Beijing-backed tycoons. Pro-democracy protestors proclaim that Leung is a Communist Party Loyalist. Leung denies this, but there is backing to their claim.
In September 2002, the Hong Kong government proposed Article 23, which allows the Government to “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion.” The article was originally added by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square student demonstrations. The bill goes on to say that groups banned by the PRC are to be banned in Hong Kong, and for houses to be searched, and for people to be arrested without court evidence or warrants. This is baseless curtailing of people’s liberties. Mass demonstrations by the Hong Kong people then followed in 2003, and the bill was withdrawn.
The Hong Kong people have a history of safeguarding their rights. This was most obvious in the people’s response to the Tiananmen Square student demonstrations on May 15 1989. Eight days later, 1.5 million marched through Hong Kong Island in support of the Beijing protestors. But Leung does not share the people’s progressive spirit or collective thoughts, as he would consider resurrecting Article 23. Leung “would strive for the consensus of the public on the issue.” Only time will tell what he will do. But in the present, there are already amassed a presence of protestors urging for democratic values. Immediately after the announcement of Leung’s victory, thousands of protestors dressed up as Red Riding Hood carrying “a replica of wolfskin” meant to represent the Chinese Communist Party. The protesters held up a black banner saying “mourning” to purport what they called “the death of democracy,” with posters saying “the wolf is here.” Such statements boldly mark the tension of Leung’s ties with his people in the years to come.
With the increasing wealth gap, rising living costs, and growing pressures to remain the “number one city to do business,” Hong Kong demands a lot from the new chief executive. Unfortunately, that chief executive is Leung Chun-Yin, whose dedication to the Hong Kong people seems weak, and whose popularity among the people seems weaker.