HK leader says will not run for re-elec­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HONG KONG:

Hong Kong leader Le­ung Chun-ying said yes­ter­day he will not stand for re-elec­tion in a 2017 vote for chief ex­ec­u­tive for fam­ily rea­sons, in a surprise an­nounce­ment that throws open the race to gov­ern the fi­nan­cial hub. Le­ung has been backed by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Bei­jing which he said had ac­cepted his de­ci­sion not to con­test the March elec­tion.

“The cen­tral gov­ern­ment has highly re­garded my work,” Le­ung told a news con­fer­ence. “In a fam­ily, my chil­dren only have one fa­ther, my wife only has one hus­band.” Le­ung did not elab­o­rate but me­dia has re­ported that a daugh­ter has been hos­pi­tal­ized. Spec­u­la­tion on a new leader for Hong Kong is likely to fo­cus on John Tsang, the city’s fi­nan­cial sec­re­tary, or Regina Ip, a for­mer city se­cu­rity chief.

All can­di­dates have to be ap­proved by a 1,200-strong Elec­tion Com­mit­tee, largely made up of pro-Bei­jing es­tab­lish­ment figures, which will then vote from among them for a new leader. Hong Kong’s next leader faces a host of chal­lenges with con­cern grow­ing over the in­flu­ence of Bei­jing in city af­fairs as well as a fledg­ing in­de­pen­dence move­ment that has alarmed China’s Com­mu­nist Party lead­er­ship. Bei­jing’s lead­ers have sig­nalled they want Hong Kong’s next chief to forge con­sen­sus across a po­lit­i­cally and so­cially di­vided city, boost in­comes and safe­guard se­cu­rity in a place that re­mains sig­nif­i­cantly more free than the main­land.

Tens of thou­sands of pro­test­ers clogged city streets for weeks in 2014 to de­mand a one-man-one-vote elec­tion for chief ex­ec­u­tive but they failed to win any con­ces­sions from Bei­jing. Ten­sions have risen in re­cent weeks amid a Bei­jing-backed le­gal crack­down against pro-in­de­pen­dence and prodemoc­racy city law­mak­ers ac­cused of mock­ing their oaths of of­fice in ges­tures of protest against Bei­jing. Two have been dis­qual­i­fied af­ter court cases and an­other four are fac­ing le­gal chal­lenges led by Le­ung and his jus­tice sec­re­tary.

‘PROB­LEMS’

The main­land’s Hong Kong and Ma­cau Af­fairs Of­fice said it “deeply re­gret­ted” Le­ung’s per­sonal de­ci­sion for fam­ily rea­sons but re­spected it, the Xin­hua news agency re­ported. Le­ung had res­o­lutely im­ple­mented the one-coun­try, two sys­tems pol­icy, the of­fice said, re­fer­ring to the for­mula for Hong Kong’s au­ton­omy un­der which the for­mer Bri­tish colony re­turned to Chi­nese rule in 1997. Le­ung had “depend­ably han­dled a se­ries of im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal is­sues”, it said. Tsang, who is less closely identified with Bei­jing’s Com­mu­nist Party lead­er­ship than Le­ung, has not ruled out stand­ing but he has de­clined to say if Bei­jing has given him any sign about a pos­si­ble bid. Tsang has ex­pe­ri­ence in city gov­ern­ment dat­ing back to Bri­tish rule. “Many peo­ple, no mat­ter if they know me or not or even those on the in­ter­net - are very sup­port­ive of me join­ing the elec­tion,” Tsang in a ra­dio in­ter­view last week.

Ip, who is seen as close to the Bei­jing lead­er­ship and is also a for­mer Bri­tish­trained civil ser­vant, is ex­pected to an­nounce her can­di­dacy next week, ac­cord­ing to me­dia.

Com­ment­ing on Le­ung’s an­nounce­ment, Ip said she was “touched and felt sym­pa­thetic” about his bid to strike a bal­ance be­tween of­fi­cial du­ties and fam­ily life. Le­ung’s pop­u­lar­ity has re­cently dipped to 38.5 points from 52.5 at the be­gin­ning of his term, ac­cord­ing to a pub­lic opin­ion poll by the Univer­sity of Hong Kong.

But the de­par­ture of the un­pop­u­lar leader would not solve the city’s prob­lems, a democ­racy ac­tivist said. “These prob­lems come from the sys­tem it­self. Un­til this mo­ment, we still can’t get universal suf­frage,” said Joshua Wong, 20, a leader of the 2014 protests. — Reuters

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying leaves af­ter a brief­ing to me­dia in Hong Kong yes­ter­day. — AP

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