2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s independence from the United Kingdom. Since then, the city is ruled and managed by specific local entities, namely the Legislative Council, whose members have been elected last September and a Chief Executive, who will be re-elected at the next election on 26th March 2017.
In 1st July 1997, when Hong Kong came back under the rule of China, the consensus was clear: one country, two systems. According to the Basic Law, the central government was not supposed to intervene Hong Kong’s political system. Yet the past two years have increasingly shown more controversies and doubts towards this status quo and the election next month will be determinant for the future and the stability of the relationship between Hong Kong and PRC.
This complex legal framework has provoked strong contestations of some Hong Kong people, who have contested Beijing’s encroachment in their sociopolitical affairs and claimed lest intervention from the central government of China.
This is the first CE election since the outbreak of the Umbrella Revolution and the rise of anti-Beijing localist parties such as Youngspiration, in the wake of these contests. The double system between China and Hong Kong has suffered of several polemics. One of the latest we witnessed occurred with the controversial oath-taking session of two representatives from Youngspiration at the legislative elections of September 2016. The interpretation of the Basic Law made by Beijing to prevent the two newly elected members to retake their oath has provoked strong reactions and rift between pro-Beijing and pro-Independence.
In this context, the election of the new head of the government will be determinant. The current Chief Executive, Leung Chun-Ying, announced in December 2016 that he would not run for another term for personal reasons, but assured he will support whoever wins the election and is capable of being appointed by the central government.
At the moment five contenders have thrown their hats into the ring. Three of them are pro-Beijing, one is non-aligned. The only pro-democratic hopeful, Leung Kwok-hung, who announced his plan to join the race on 8th February, stands out from the others by his pro-democracy stance. Heading the League of Social Democrats and supporting pro-independence parties, the activist – who is more commonly known as Long Hair – embeds the new wave of Hong Kong political system, increasingly detached from Beijing.
“I am not here to mess with the party, rather I’d wish to truly reflect the spirit of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the calls of Hongkongers, and the voices of those low-income people who have always been oppressed” , he said during an interview with Standsnews.
However, for most Hong Kongers, candidacy of Leung is not taken seriously. John Tsang, with his slogan “Trust, Unity, Hope” and his large popularity on social media, might enjoy the support of pro-independence supporters. He is indeed considered as the most likely contender to challenge pro-Beijing camp favorite Carrie Lam.
Yet everything is still to play for this election as the nomination period has started yesterday and lasts until the 1st March. Candidates have to gather at least 150 signatures out of the 1200 members of the Election Committee to be eligible to officially enter the run.
Writer: Lucie Jung
Editor: Harriet Lai
Copy Editors: Ng Nok Hei, Zoe Law, Joy Chung Wai Ling and Lauren Hee Soo Yoon
Online Team: Ng Nok Hei