On Sunday the Election Committee nominated CY Leung as the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong. And while having 1,200 selected members choose a nation’s leader doesn’t necessarily sound like democracy, in a weird Hong Kong way it was. Sort of.
At the start of the process it was made clear that, of the three candidates, there really was one chosen one – Henry Tang. He was widely seen as the favourite choice for businessmen, civil servants, and the government in Beijing. This was Henry’s election to lose - and lose it he did!
In a string of widely publicised scandals Henry Tang went from front-runner to flat-footed. First came revelations he had a string of affairs while married. Then he was found to have a 2,500 square foot luxury basement built without planning approval. Tang blamed his wife. (More on that later. Tang could face jail for the illegal dwelling.) Next came the purported baby from those out-of-wedlock trysts.
The third candidate, Albert Ho, was never expected to gain much support. He is the chairman of the break-away Democratic party. To call them a thorn in the side of China would be an understatement. We have more chance of the Dalai Lama being received in the Great Hall of the People than seeing a Democrat in charge of Hong Kong.
Then there was CY. He started with the popular support of the people in Hong Kong – if only as a replacement for what was seen as a shoe-in for Tang. Yet he too suffered his scandals, especially when it was found that members of his election committee met with a renowned Triad member at a restaurant in the New Territories.
So there we were. Three candidates. Each touched with a fair degree of soil. Yet on Sunday in the Hong Kong Exhibition Center the 1,200 members of the Election Committee convened and voted. CY Leung received 689 votes in the first round – well over the 50% required to avoid a second round vote.
And there they were. The unsuccessful candidates congratulated Leung, who promised to unite our fair city:
“From now on, there won’t be any Tang camp, Ho camp nor Leung camp. There is only one camp – the Hong Kong camp.” CY Leung in his acceptance remarks.
And there THEY were – the protesters Beijing hates to see. Thousands gathered. Several attempted to break-in. Police used pepper spray to disperse the heartiest protesters.
A choice of candidates. A demonstration against the winner – and a larger one planned for this coming Sunday. A series of opinion polls. Many, many scandals. Accusations and counter-accusations. In a messy, sloppy, uneven way this is how democracy works. Most important this “trial” was meant to prepare the people of Hong Kong for the next stage – the direct election of a Chief Executive by the people in 2017.
This messy election was the starter – we get a real taste of democracy in five years time.