Outlook 2017 East Asia: Tough challenges await new HK Chief Executive

A road block set up by demonstrators near the China liaison office during a protest last month against Beijing's intervention in local politics.
A road block set up by demonstrators near the China liaison office during a protest last month against Beijing's intervention in local politics.PHOTO: REUTERS

This is the first of a five-part series looking at the key events and issues facing the world in 2017. Today, The Straits Times looks at East Asia and the many challenges the region faces in the coming months.

HONG KONG • It will mark its 20th anniversary as a Special Administrative Region of China next year.

The new year will also see a new Chief Executive being picked to lead the semi-autonomous city.

The leadership of Mr Leung Chun Ying has been controversial, and his administration has been plagued by pro-democracy protests, including the 79-day Umbrella Revolution in 2014 and the Mongkok riot this year. The most recent came last month, when 4,000 demonstrators clashed with police outside the China liaison office in protest over Beijing's handing down of its ruling on an oath-taking row involving pro-democracy and pro-independence legislators.

Beijing's intervention has raised fears among Hong Kongers that the city's autonomy is eroding.

The new leader will face the challenge of restoring harmony, while at the same time executing Beijing's hardline policies, analysts said.

 

Much rides on the outcome of the government's lawsuit to oust four pro-independence lawmakers from the legislature - the city could see more protests if the four are disqualified over the validity of their swearing-in oaths in October.

However, with the Chinese government going through some major restructuring in the new year, analyst Willy Lam does not think Beijing will try to hand down any harsh policies in Hong Kong next year.

Whoever becomes the new Chief Executive after the March 26 poll would pursue a more conciliatory approach towards pan-democrats, said Dr Lam.

Political uncertainties might not directly affect investors' confidence, but separation of power and judicial independence in the city would, he noted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Tough challenges await new HK Chief Executive'. Print Edition | Subscribe