Beijing's pick for new HK leader 'likely to be weak'

Chief Executive candidate former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam speaking during a debate in Hong Kong, China, on March 14, 2017.
Chief Executive candidate former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam speaking during a debate in Hong Kong, China, on March 14, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

While Ms Carrie Lam will likely win the chief executive election tomorrow, she will be a weak leader, say Chinese analysts.

This is because she is unlikely to win as many votes as the outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, given that the pan-democrats, who make up a quarter of the voters in the 1,194 election committee, support her rivals, Mr John Tsang and Mr Woo Kwok Hing. Mr Leung had won 689 votes in the 2012 election.

Ms Lam also has low support among Hong Kongers as a whole, said Professor Zhao Kejin of Tsinghua University.

According to a recent poll by the South China Morning Post, she has a support rate of 29.5 per cent against 49.6 per cent for Mr Tsang.

Moreover, "she will also face great constraint from the Legislative Council", added Prof Zhao. This is as the pro-democracy camp in the legislature has grown in numbers after last year's elections.


Ms Lam would need to increase her support among Hong Kongers. "If she is popular among the people, then the lawmakers will have to conform to public opinion," he said.

Beijing has shown its preference for Ms Lam to be the next chief.

Chinese analysts agree that the next chief executive will have to address two key demands of the Hong Kong people - to have better livelihoods and greater political freedom. Beijing had promised to allow the city to select its leader by universal suffrage this year, but this came to nought after a proposal was rejected by pan-democrats unhappy with curbs on who could run.

Hong Kong's next leader will have to create jobs and address the city's widening income gap. One way is to redirect Hong Kong's economy towards the world.

"Hong Kong's economy has become more inward-looking because after 1997, it has become more dependent on the mainland economically," Prof Zhao told The Straits Times. It has lost its competitive edge as a result, he said.

Professor Wang Hongxu of the Central Party School said Hong Kong could take part actively in the mainland's One Belt, One Road Initiative to enhance its international status and economic strength.

As for political reform, analysts agree that it should be gradual.

"Hong Kong needs to have political reform and the central government recognises this," said Prof Zhao. But reform needs time and the city's people and scholars need to build a consensus, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing's pick for new HK leader 'likely to be weak''. Print Edition | Subscribe