Tue, Jul 19, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Campaign urges China to drop Hong Kong’s leader

‘ABC’ PUSH:Leung Chun-ying’s term is not up until March next year, but some say he should not to get a second term as a way of ending the territory’s political stalemate

Bloomberg

Edward Leung, a spokesman for the group Hong Kong Indigenous, yesterday poses in Hong Kong.

Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong is readying another test of China’s willingness to satisfy its democratic yearnings: a cross-party campaign to replace the Beijing-backed, but unpopular, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英).

Dubbed “ABC,” for “Anyone But CY Leung,” the effort is gaining steam before September’s Legislative Council (LegCo) elections, the biggest vote since student-led protests shook the territory two years ago.

Unlike the Occupy movement, which was supported by the so-called pan-democratic camp, the ABC campaign has attracted figures with pro-establishment leanings like Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien (田中光) and Hong Kong Television Network chairman Ricky Wong Wai Kay (王維基).

While there has been no indication China might withdraw support from Leung before his term is up for renewal in March next year, his critics say replacing him is the only way to break the political stalemate that has gripped post-Occupy Hong Kong.

Leung, who refused protesters’ demands to soften Beijing’s plan for the next chief executive election, has been blamed for failing to quiet political divides in the territory.

Meanwhile, his efforts to cool soaring property prices and curb crowds of shoppers from China have come at the expense of property developers and retailers already squeezed by China’s slowdown.

Hong Kong’s economy is projected to expand 1.5 percent this year, the slowest pace since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“If CY Leung gets a second term, this is the end,” former lawmaker Martin Lee (李柱銘), 78, an elder statesman among territory’s democrats, told the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club last month. “If anybody but CY gets in, then we have a future.”

Leung has not said if he will seek a second term and told the South China Morning Post last month he might not make up his mind before September. When asked for a response to the ABC campaign, his office referred to a statement from June 29.

“The chief executive stressed that any decision on standing for re-election has nothing to do with the LegCo election,” the government said at the time. “He has repeatedly stated that he would focus on the work at hand for the time being.”

ALTERNATIVES

Critics of Leung’s among the pro-establishment camp cite Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), his current No. 2; Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (曾俊華); and Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang (曾鈺成).

While none have announced intentions to run, they have received support from Beijing over their careers and are more popular than Leung in opinion surveys.

The choice of chief executive offers Beijing a rare chance to acknowledge local concerns, amid dissatisfaction with the “one country, two systems” framework in the former British colony. The person is selected by a 1,200-member committee of political insiders dominated by China loyalists and subject to approval by the central government in Beijing.

Leung, who democracy advocates sometimes mock as “689” for the number of votes he got in 2012, has never been as popular as either of the two previous men chosen under the system. He received an average approval rating of 40.1 out of 100, according to a survey released earlier this month by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program.

That is down from 52.5 when he took office and 55.7 for his immediate predecessor, Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), at the same point in his tenure.

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