Hong Kong likely to vote in Beijing’s pick amid tension
HONG KONG: Tomorrow Hong Kong will likely select Beijing’s favoured candidate for its next leader, a choice some say would further divide a city in which middle-class families have become increasingly disaffected by political tension and economic hardship.
The former British colony, governed under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, was promised a high degree of autonomy and the right to select its chief executive when it was handed over to communist Chinese rule in 1997.
But 20 years later, only 1 200 people on an election committee stacked with Beijing loyalists will vote for the next leader of the Asian financial hub which witnessed weeks of sometimes violent street protests in 2014 calling for universal suffrage.
Former top civil servant Carrie Lam is widely expected to win, thanks to Beijing’s backing.
Former finance chief John Tsang, more popular with the city’s 7.3 million people, is expected to get around a quarter of the vote.
An evening rally for Tsang yesterday drew thousands who thronged the central financial district calling for a populist leader to be elected for once.
With Lam’s victory on the cards, some middle-class residents see the lack of democracy again fuelling political division and fresh protests, leaving them powerless to tackle livelihood issues such as high property prices and rising inequality.
“The middle class are affected by several problems, the rule of law, governance, housing,” said Nick Chung, 25, who works in IT.
“It’s no longer a matter of helping the middle class alone. It’s a structural problem.”
Lam has spoken of unifying Hong Kong as one of her top priorities, but some expect her backing from Beijing to have the opposite effect.
Politicians and insiders say Beijing’s interference has been unprecedented, violating constitutional safeguards of the city’s autonomy.
Mark Pinkstone, a retired civil servant who campaigned for Regina Ip, another former top official eyeing the top job who dropped out of the race, said many election committee members had received calls and had face-to-face meetings with Chinese officials who lobbied them to vote a certain way. – Reuters