Next Month Could Change Everything In Hong Kong Politics

Hong Kong C.Y. Leung

Photo: Youtube Screenshot

The man on the right is Leung Chun-ying (commonly known as C.Y. Leung), but chances are if you don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin and live outside of China, you may not have heard of him.However, if you think the future of China will affect you (which it will), you should probably keep an eye on him.

On July 1 C.Y. Leung will officially become the new Chief Executive of of Hong Kong — the leader of one of two of China’s special administrative regions. Leung will be an anomaly in Hong Kong’s leadership, having neither been groomed by the former British colonial masters, nor being born a “princeling”, and raised as a member of China’s elite families .

Instead, he’s the son of a common policeman who became a successful businessman in his own right. While this may make him an outsider to the Hong Kong-business elites who control much of the city-state’s economy, to the public it seems to have endeared him. The Chinese wire service Xinhua ran a lengthy profile of him in April titled “From a humble boy to an aspiring leader”.

That humility stood in contrast with his rival, the princeling Henry Tang, whose campaign was killed after a series of personal mistakes saw Beijing take away their support and give it to Leung.

Leung is also unique in that he’s Hong Kong’s first indirectly-elected leader — an experiment in democracy for China. Earlier this year, the 1200 members of Hong Kong’s Election Committee cast votes to bring him into office, but Chinese authorities had earlier made clear that the public’s opinion would be considered. Leung, unlike Tang, went out into the streets and pressed the flesh with ordinary Hong Kong citizens.

The aim (in theory at least) is for the Chief Executive to be elected by universal suffrage in the next election in 2017 (and for the legislature to be elected in 2020), which means from his first day in office Leung will probably be thinking about re-election. Who would he be loyal to, the public who could re-elect him or Beijing?

Right now no one seems to have any idea which way he will go — while he’s said to be leaning towards populist policies, there are other, more covert signs he may be leaning towards Beijing.

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