News

Scandal-Tainted Hong Kong Campaign Nears Sunday Poll

Hong Kong Chief Executive candidates (L-R) Leung Chun-ying, Henry Tang and Albert Ho stand on the stage after a live television debate in Hong Kong, March 16, 2012.
Hong Kong Chief Executive candidates (L-R) Leung Chun-ying, Henry Tang and Albert Ho stand on the stage after a live television debate in Hong Kong, March 16, 2012.
Ivan Broadhead

A committee of pro-Beijing business tycoons and special interest groups will appoint the next leader of the Hong Kong government Sunday. With a voting system designed to ensure that only loyal Beijing supporters can win, China should have no concerns about the election outcome. However, the reputations of both Beijing’s contenders have been battered after a scandal-ridden campaign that has energized political opposition groups.

Simple process

Six months ago, the appointment of Hong Kong’s next chief executive seemed a mere formality. Members of the so-called "small-circle" election committee - 1,193 broadly pro-China appointees - had a simple choice to make
.
One candidate: former Hong Kong chief secretary Henry Tang - a civil servant and scion of a wealthy Shanghai textiles family, trusted by both Beijing and the territory’s influential business elite. The other option: Leung Chun-ying, former convener of the executive council and loyal Communist party member.

But both men have been politically compromised in recent months.

Scandals

"Beijing expected a gentlemanly contest between the two pro-establishment candidates," said political analyst Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "But it has degenerated into a mud-slinging smear campaign. Basically, Beijing has lost control of the situation."

Each has accused the other of serious offenses. Leung stands accused of consorting with local criminal groups (triads); Tang confessed to serial adultery; Leung is being investigated on suspicion of profiting from government building contracts.

Lam says most unforgivable to the public is the revelation that Tang illegally constructed a theater, gym and spa complex under the swimming pool of his luxury home. That room alone is twice the size of most Hong Kong apartments. Rather than accept responsibility for breaching planning law, Tang blamed his wife.

Losing credibility

In a city where median family income has remained static for a decade while property prices have risen more than 300 percent, the majority can no longer afford to buy their own home. Tang’s controversies have led to a plummeting approval rating.

"People basically have lost confidence and trust in the personal integrity as well as the administrative capabilities of the two candidates," said Lam.

Although Tang suffers from falling public support, the influential business elite is believed to be suspicious of Leung’s socialist credentials and abrasive personality. The election could go to a second-round in May if no one wins more than 600 votes. But Ho-fung Hung of Johns Hopkins University says this is unlikely.

"If Beijing decides to let the first round be inconclusive and go to the second round, it means a loss of face," said Hung. "The obvious preference is for a very clear majority vote in the first round, and that is it."

Beijing's policy

China’s central government avoided making any statement of preference, until last week. Then, Premier Wen Jiabao remarked that the candidate with most public support should prevail.

As Tang’s popularity has tanked, party leaders are hastily contacting election committee members, to rally support for Leung.

Meanwhile, there is a third candidate in the race, Albert Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party.

"The system is designed in such a way to make sure people like me, unacceptable to Beijing, cannot win," he said. "I think the people appreciate my role in this race. We have to stand united. We must fight hard to strive for democracy in order to protect our freedom and make Hong Kong move forward."

The scandal-plagued election has raised the profile of what could happen if Beijing fulfills a long-pledged goal of universal suffrage by the time of the next chief executive election in 2017.

Opposition

Hong Kong journalist Philip Bowring says there are growing public calls for direct elections.

"We’re promised everyone can vote in five years’ time," said bowring. "Beijing is going to have to think hard about how candidates reach the point of being voted on. Communist party officials are not used to being held accountable, but one thing that may come out of this is more accountability and transparency in government."

The past year in Hong Kong has been marked by public protests against the influx of mainland Chinese and Beijing’s influence on the city. With either one of the pro-Beijing candidates nearly certain to win Sunday’s poll, opposition groups say they are planning protests for Election day.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs