Monday, 26 March 2012

Shadow Over Leung's Future

The election of Leung Chun-ying as the next Chief Executive is troubling many in Hong Kong.

That's because Beijing is becoming more open about its control over the former British colony.

Previously things were done in an underhanded or low-key way. Now it's pretty much blatant, turning this city, which is known for its press and speech freedoms into a quasi mainland Chinese state.

This was not supposed to happen until 2047, but obviously not yet 15 years after the handover we're getting a lot of interference from the mainland.

Days before the vote yesterday, Beijing urged the 1,200-member electorate to vote for Leung over Henry Tang Ying-yen.

Tang was probably in denial up until Sunday, believing his patron former President Jiang Zemin was still supporting him since he had been promised the position many years ago. The winds have certainly shifted in the last few weeks.

During his news conference Tang was teary eyed. Was it because it finally dawned on him that he was a puppet in this entire exercise?

And then there were reports about the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government calling the Hong Kong Economic Journal and complaining that it was too critical of Leung. The paper is 50-percent owned by Richard Li, a staunch supporter of Tang.

Other journalists and columnists complained there published pieces also had their wordings changed. Some had originally said they chose neither Tang nor Leung, but the final version said they chose Leung over Tang.

"The invisible hand" is troubling to Hong Kongers who are typically straight-forward people who expect everyone to play by the rules.

So it comes as a shock to them to see Beijing meddling in a race that Leung would probably have won anyway. If he had clinched enough votes on his own merit, people would think he had more integrity than he does now.

This is disappointing as Leung hasn't even begun his job yet and already has so many issues to deal with regarding his ability to do the job.

While it is a fact of life that Hong Kong is becoming closer to China, Hong Kong people want to believe rule of law is still in place, as well as freedom of speech and media. When these institutions start to erode, they lose hope and confidence in the city.

Leung cannot let this happen -- but more importantly, Beijing must not let this happen.

If the mainland has any understand of what Hong Kong is, it would leave it alone.

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