Leung Chun-ying, a former government adviser who pledged to protect local residents’ interests, won Sunday’s election to become the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s (SAR) fourth-term chief executive.
The 57-year-old, British-educated real-estate surveyor won 689 of 1,132 valid votes cast by members of the 1,200-member Election Committee. He beat Henry Tang, former secretary of administration, and Albert Ho, Democratic Party leader, by wide margins.
Leung had dedicated his election campaign to protecting the rights of Hong Kong residents, including tough policies to control the city’s runaway property prices and banning pregnant mothers from the mainland from giving birth at local public hospitals.
At the press conference after winning the poll, he reaffirmed his election pledges to build more public housing and promised to only sell homes to Hong Kong residents when the market becomes over-heated.
Leung also promised to speed up construction of the city’s infrastructure and railway systems. His term will begin July 1 when Donald Tsang Yam-kuen completes his second term as the city’s chief executive.
Leung was born into an ordinary family. His father was a police officer. After completing his studies in the UK, he went back to Hong Kong in 1977 to work as a property surveyor.
At age 31, Leung was appointed to draft the city’s Basic Law in 1986, and in 1999 he took up the post of convener of the Non-Official Members of the Executive Council of Hong Kong.
“Livelihood issues, including soaring property prices and the widening wealth gap, could be the major challenges for Leung during his tenure,” Zhang Dinghuai, a professor at the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, told the Global Times.
Zhang noted that Hong Kong could rely on the fast economic growth momentum of the mainland and seize a good opportunity to boost its economy.
The central government’s supportive policies, including setting up an offshore renminbi center in Hong Kong, could benefit the region’s development, said Zhang.
Bernard Yip, a political commentator and politics professor at Hong Kong University, told the Global Times that by only securing 689 votes, Leung will have a difficult time winning support from local residents.
“Hong Kong is going through a tough period as the election campaign revealed a lot of corruption suspicion toward the current chief executive and Henry Tang,” Yip said. “Leung needs to rebuild the public confidence in Hong Kong’s governance.”
Tang’s popularity was dealt a huge blow after he admitted to building a basement under his villa without government permits. Local media also reported that he did not pay his real estate taxes.
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the current chief executive, is under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). He is the first chief executive to be suspected of corruption during his tenure.
About 2,000 people protested outside the election site Sunday, according to Reuters.
Eric Lai, spokesman for the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the protest, said they did not want a selective committee to choose Hong Kong’s leader for them, and they needed universal suffrage.
But Ji Shuoming, a senior commentator of Asiaweek based in Hong Kong, told the Global Times that “the relatively lower votes for Leung could also be ascribed to more candidates this time than previous elections.”
Ji noted that the number of election committee members expanding from the previous 800 to the current 1,200, as well as more candidates being allowed to stand, all paved the way for universal suffrage in 2017.
The central government has said universal suffrage can start from the election of the Hong Kong chief executive in 2017 and for the legislature in 2020.
Zhang said that Hong Kong residents have the right to express different opinions, but they did not realize that universal suffrage has already been approved by the central government, and the SAR is now gradually moving toward the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.
“On Hong Kong’s constitutional development, both the central and local governments are fully committed to promoting constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, with a view to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage,” a spokesman of the SAR government said in November.
“The SAR government has made it clear that the future universal suffrage models should comply with the Basic Law and the principles of universality and equality. The community has sufficient time to reach a consensus on issues relating to the implementation of universal suffrage in future,” the spokesman said, according to Xinhua News Agency.