Posts Tagged ‘Carrie Lam’

Hong Kong leader-elect says she’s determined to tackle high cost of housing

March 28, 2017

Reuters

Tue Mar 28, 2017 | 4:50am EDT

By Venus Wu | HONG KONG

Hong Kong-leader elect Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she was “very determined” to tackle the high cost of housing in the densely populated city, among the top concerns of foreign business people working there.

Lam, the Chinese-controlled financial hub’s former chief secretary, was chosen on Sunday by a 1,200-person committee to lead the city, pledging in her victory speech to unite political divisions, illustrated by huge pro-democracy protests in 2014, that have hindered policy-making and legislative work.

Speaking at a Credit Suisse investment conference in Hong Kong, Beijing-backed Lam also said the former British colony faced tough competition from the region and also from mainland Chinese cities which are “becoming very powerful”.

The cost of housing is one of Hong Kong’s biggest social issues and making homes more affordable was among outgoing leader Leung Chun-ying’s top priorities, something he failed to achieve.

Lam said land and labor were two “major bottlenecks” for Hong Kong’s development.

“On the land issue, I am very determined to tackle that in the next term of government in a big way,” she told an audience of 200 financial and business professionals.

“It’s not just looking at the annual land sale program but really, the long-term supply of land, or better still, a land bank for Hong Kong.”

Lam also pledged during her campaign to tackle the problem by increasing land supply.

Lam’s call to mend social divisions suffered a setback a day after she was elected when police on Monday charged nine organizers of the 2014 demonstrations, provoking anger among protesters.

In perhaps her strongest admission to date on China’s perceived behind-the-scenes interference in Hong Kong politics, she told a radio program she knew the Central Liaison Office, China’s top representative office in Hong Kong, had been involved in lobbying legislators in the past.

“We do not need our friends at the Central Liaison Office to worry,” she told reporters after the program, saying she wouldn’t welcome its involvement in Hong Kong affairs under her administration.

Since the 2014 protests, there have also been some calls for independence in the city which operates under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it freedoms not enjoyed on the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

Lam said if the city started to argue about whether it should become independent, then “we have no common basis to start this common journey to give Hong Kong a better future”.

The next few months will be critical for Leung and Lam, with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to pay a visit on July 1 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British rule, with large protests expected.

The city also had a lot of catching up to do in terms of comprehensive double tax agreements, Lam said. In her victory speech on Sunday, Lam pledged to follow through on her promise to introduce a two-tier profits tax.

(Reporting by Venus Wu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Hong Kong: Carrie Lam Says She Will Unify Divided City — As HK Police Round Up To Arrest Pro-Democracy Leaders

March 27, 2017

‘Obviously the government didn’t want to affect the election,’ says one leader, who faces public nuisance charge

By Chris Lau and Joyce Ng
South China Morning Post

Monday, March 27, 2017, 3:30 pm

Hong Kong independence targeted by Beijing: Leung Chun-ying carries out orders from Xi Jinping — “Very simply put – and very forcefully – Xi said there is no room whatsoever for Hong Kong independence.”

March 27, 2017

Chinese president told Leung Chun-ying last November to maintain social and political stability

South China Morning Post
November 22, 2016

Police cracked down on Hong Kong democracy activists after election of Carrie Lam, “Beijing’s wet nurse” — “Political persecution begins again,” democracy advocates say

March 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect Carrie Lam has refused to comment directly on the arrest of three democracy activists
HONG KONG (AFP) – Police cracked down on Hong Kong democracy activists Monday saying they would be charged over the Umbrella Movement mass protests, a day after a pro-Beijing candidate was chosen as the city’s new leader.

Carrie Lam was selected as the new chief executive Sunday by a committee dominated by pro-China voters, but promised to try to unify the deeply divided city.

The vote was dismissed as a sham by democracy campaigners who fear Beijing is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong and say Lam will be no different from its unpopular current leader, Leung Chun-ying.

Those concerns were heightened Monday when police informed several leading campaigners who took part in the Umbrella Movement of 2014 that they would be charged in connection with the rallies.

The protests saw tens of thousands take to the streets calling for fully free leadership elections, but failed to win concessions from Beijing.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP she had received a call from police Friday morning telling her she would be charged with causing a public nuisance, with a maximum sentence of seven years.

“They said it was related to the ‘illegal occupation’ of 2014,” she said, describing it as a “death kiss” from Leung, who will step down in July.

Chan said she had been arrested immediately after the protests, but had never been charged.

She will report to a police station Monday evening and will go to court Thursday.

Chan added she would take responsibility for participation in “civil disobedience activity”, but said the timing undermined Lam’s unity pledge.

Activist Raphael Wong of the League of Social Democrats told AFP he would also be charged with public nuisance and blamed Leung.

“As Carrie Lam talks about unity, they are saying you don’t need it,” he told AFP.

Professor Chan Kin-man, a founding member of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central, one of the groups behind the protests, also received a call from police informing him of an impending charge and called the move “ridiculous”.

“It shows the government has no intention to heal the divisions,” Chan said.

Local media reported that police informed a total of nine activists that they would face charges.

Lam did not directly respond over whether the move would further divide Hong Kong.

“Prosecution actions are undertaken independently by the department of justice,” she told reporters.

She repeated that she wanted unity, but said her approach “should not compromise the rule of law in Hong Kong”.

Pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement, described the crackdown as “political persecution”.

He was not among those who received a police notice of charges.

Wong, legislator Nathan Law and former student protester Alex Chow were all convicted last year for taking part in, or inciting others to take part in, an anti-China protest that led up to the major rallies.

They were given community service or suspended sentences.

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Resolution for Hong Kong’s Future — Hongkongers themselves should decide the political status of Hong Kong

Tanya Chan Suk-chong  released a declaration entitled “Resolution for Hong Kong’s Future”. It was signed by more than 30 young individuals from various pro-democracy groups and stated that Hongkongers themselves should decide the political status of Hong Kong after 2047.

tanya chan

Tanya Chan.  Photo: Apple Daily/HKFP remix.

Chan, a co-founder of the Civic Party and former lawmaker, said: “Even though I’m in a political party myself, speaking as a signatory to the declaration I can say that we’re not releasing this for the upcoming Legislative Council elections. Some of the signatories are scholars. We’re not targeting just one or two elections,” Chan said on RTHK.

Chan also said that in light of the questions Hong Kong is facing regarding its future, it would be irresponsible to look at just these elections and then feel satisfied at having solved the problem.

hong kong's future resolution

“As a Civic Party member, this is even more so – I won’t say that [the declaration] will affect the elections. What we’re talking about here is ‘internal self-determination’ – it does not include [ideas of] Hong Kong independence. We hope that it will determine the political structure for self-rule.”

“If we can’t implement internal self-rule, then maybe we would look at external self-rule such as Hong Kong independence, but I think everyone understands that – at this point in time – we do not have the conditions to discuss this.”

Chan also said that right now, Hong Kong lacked the relevant legal basis for independence.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/04/22/2047-declaration-demands-internal-self-rule-not-independence-says-civic-party-signatory-tanya-chan/

Hong Kong’s divisive new leader faces tough task — Lam is nicknamed “lai-ma” or “wet-nurse” by pro-democracy groups

March 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Carrie Lam is seen as tough and capable by supporters, but hated by the pro-democracy camp
HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam, seen as tough and capable by supporters but hated by the pro-democracy camp, faces a difficult task in calming political tensions in the divided city.

Voted in as chief executive Sunday by a committee weighted towards Beijing, critics say she will only further polarise a society riven by protests two years ago that centred on fears of China’s growing influence.

Lam, who will be the first woman to run Hong Kong, rose through the ranks as a career civil servant before taking public office.

She served as deputy to Hong Kong’s outgoing leader Leung Chun-ying and is tainted by her association with an unpopular figure who was criticised for doing Beijing’s bidding while in office.

Lam is nicknamed “lai-ma” or “wet-nurse” by opponents in a jibe over what they say was fawning loyalty towards her former boss.

Her negative image among activists was sealed when she promoted a Beijing-backed reform package rejected as “fake democracy” by opponents.

The plan triggered mass street protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for more than two months but failed to win concessions from Beijing on fully free leadership elections.

Lam has made no commitment to revisit the political reform debate, instead trying to connect with the public on livelihood issues.

The 59-year-old cast herself as a force for change on the campaign trail, focusing on issues such as poverty and housing which have also fuelled unrest.

Although she was well behind main rival John Tsang in most opinion polls before the vote, she had strong support among older residents.

Ex-finance minister Tsang, seen as a more moderate establishment figure, garnered backing from young people.

Lam was widely perceived as Beijing’s favoured candidate throughout the race and was viewed as the most likely winner.

Her resignation from her position as deputy leader in January, a move that signalled her candidacy, was quickly endorsed by Beijing.

In contrast, Tsang’s resignation took more than a month to be approved by Chinese authorities.

Lam has promised to try to build consensus and “restore faith and hope” in Hong Kong. But she has also said she would “strengthen the relationship between Hong Kong and China”.

“Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustrations. My priority will be to heal the divide,” she said in a victory speech.

Lam has also emphasised there is no room for independence for the city, responding to a rise in calls for a direct split from China by some young activists — a sentiment views as unthinkable just a few years ago.

Her bid to be seen as a woman of the people hit stumbling blocks as she sought the leadership.

While using the city’s underground rail network as part of campaigning, she appeared unfamiliar with how to use the ubiquitous “Octopus” travel card to get through barriers.

She was also mocked for a lack of common sense after an anecdote related to reporters — about a late-night hunt for toilet paper — revealed she didn’t know where to buy essentials in a city packed with convenience stores.

However in an election decided by a committee heavily weighted towards Beijing and branded unrepresentative by many campaigners, she eventually won by 777 votes, against Tsang’s 365, and with former judge Woo Kwok-hing gaining 21.

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Hong Kong’s Next Leader is Carrie Lam — “Hong Kong needs new thinking.” — “Fake” Chinese-style democracy won’t work

March 26, 2017

Hong Kong’s new leader chosen by Beijing in “fake democracy” process — China’s record of failing to deliver promised political reform continues

March 26, 2017

AFP

© Vincent Yu, AFP | Carrie Lam (right) and defeated candidate John Tsang during a televised debate in Hong Kong on March 14, 2017.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-26

Beijing favourite Carrie Lam was selected as Hong Kong’s new leader on Sunday by a mainly pro-China committee, in an election dismissed as a sham by democracy activists who fear the loss of the city’s cherished freedoms.

It is the first leadership vote since mass “Umbrella Movement” rallies calling for fully free elections in 2014 failed to win reforms and comes after a turbulent term under current chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Leung, who is seen by opponents as a Beijing puppet, and will step down in July after five years in charge.

Hong Kong is semi-autonomous and has been governed under a “one country, two systems” deal since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

But, 20 years on, there are serious concerns Beijing is disregarding the handover agreement designed to protect Hong Kong’s way of life.

Around three quarters of the 1,194 members of the election committee were from the mainland camp.

An emotional Lam bowed to supporters at it was announced she had won comprehensively with 777 votes against 365 for her more moderate establishment rival John Tsang.

The third and most liberal candidate, Woo Kwok-hing, received just 21 votes.

Frustration at what activists see as China’s increasing influence and a lack of promised political reform has sparked calls for self-determination for Hong Kong, or even a complete split from China.

Lam was widely seen as Beijing’s pick for the job throughout the race and will become Hong Kong’s first ever woman chief executive.

She is intensely disliked by the pro-democracy camp after promoting the Beijing-backed reform package that sparked 2014’s massive protests.

That plan said the public could choose the city leader in 2017, but insisted candidates must be vetted first.

It was eventually voted down in parliament by pro-democracy lawmakers and reforms have been shelved ever since.

Hundreds of protesters including leading pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong gathered near the harbour-front voting venue.

They chanted: “Oppose central authority appointment, we choose our own government!”

Protesters were held back by police as some tried to push through barriers.

Nearby, pro-China supporters played marching music surrounded by national and city flags.

Rebel legislator Nathan Law, who as a lawmaker has an automatic vote, said he would enter a blank ballot.

“It is still a selection from the Beijing government,” Law told AFP.

Uphill struggle

Representatives of a broad number of sectors, from business to education, sit on the committee that chooses the chief executive, but the vast majority of the city’s 3.8 million electorate have no say in the vote.

Leading business figures including Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing waved to reporters as they went in to cast their votes.

Pro-democracy committee members threw their weight behind Lam’s main rival, ex-finance secretary Tsang.

But activists said he was still on the side of Beijing rejected the vote outright as unrepresentative of Hong Kong people.

Lam will face an uphill struggle to unite a city in which young people in particular have lost faith in the political system and their overall prospects.

With salaries too low to meet the cost of property in an overpriced market fuelled by mainland money, getting ahead in life is seen as increasingly difficult.

She says she will try to build consensus by focusing on social issues, including poverty and housing.

But critics say she is dodging the bigger political questions and will pave the way for Beijing to extend its influence.

That anxiety comes off the back of a number of incidents under Leung that rocked public confidence.

They include the disappearance in 2015 of five Hong Kong booksellers known for publishing salacious titles about China’s political elite. The booksellers all resurfaced in detention on the mainland.

Image may contain: 2 people

Books banned by China In Hong Kong. Photo by Todd Darling, HKFP.

 

Last year, the disqualification from parliament of two publicly elected pro-independence lawmakers following a Beijing intervention also prompted accusations the city’s legislature had been seriously compromised.

Two ousted pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers on Wednesday announced they were making a final bid to overturn a controversial Beijing-linked ban preventing them from taking up their seats in parliament.

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were elected in citywide polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of office during their swearing-in ceremony, inserting expletives and draping themselves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags.

This prompted a rare interference by Chinese authorities.

Pro-independence lawmakers Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching were elected in citywide Hong Kong polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of o...

Pro-independence lawmakers Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching were elected in citywide Hong Kong polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of office during their swearing-in ceremony ©Anthony WALLACE (AFP/File)

The pair were amongst a handful of rebel candidates who took seats for the first time after the September polls, advocating either independence or self-determination for the southern Chinese city.

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© AFP | Protesters attend a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on March 25, 2017

From Peace and Freedom judicial analyst in China: “Many in the West may not know that much of the Beijing government has a Coterie that too frequently stretches the laws of “normal” legal behaviour. Men get kidnapped. Some get killed. Arms get broken. Wives go missing. It is much like an American mafia movie.”

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China's Wukan Democracy Experiment Comes to a Violent End
Phalanx of Chinese police in Wukan “The Democracy Village” — September 2016: Image Credit– Wukan villagers via @xianyanyu
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Nine residents of ‘democracy village’ to serve up to 10 years over unrest sparked by imprisonment of an elected leader and simmering land disputes

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Protesters attend a candlelight vigil in support of China’s Wukan democracy  village outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Sept. 17, 2017. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

Hong Kong: Pro-democracy activists march as next chief executive will be chosen by a pro-China committee on Sunday — It the “winner” hand-picked by Beijing?

March 25, 2017

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Many still believe universal suffrage was Hong Kong’s destiny

AFP

© AFP | Protesters attend a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on March 25, 2017
HONG KONG (AFP) – Pro-democracy activists and hundreds of supporters marched in Hong Kong Saturday ahead of a vote for the city’s next leader which they reject as a sham.Hong Kong’s next chief executive will be chosen by a pro-China committee on Sunday morning with former deputy leader Carrie Lam widely seen as Beijing’s favourite for the job, but intensely disliked by the democracy camp who view her as a hardliner.

It is the first leadership vote in the semi-autonomous city since mass rallies in 2014 calling for fully free elections failed to win reform and comes as concern grows that Beijing is increasingly interfering in Hong Kong.

Some of the marchers on Saturday held yellow umbrellas, symbol of the democracy movement, and chanted “Oppose Chinese authorities’ appointment — we should choose our own government!”

The city’s best-known pro-democracy campaigner, Joshua Wong, said he expected more protesters to gather Sunday as committee members cast their votes at the harbourfront convention centre.

“It will be a nightmare for us if Carrie Lam is elected, but we will still continue to generate more motivation to fight against suppression and the interference of China’s government,” said student Wong, 20, who became the face of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests.

The pro-democracy camp makes up only a quarter of the 1,194-strong election committee, which is drawn from a range of special interest groups, ranging from agriculture to real estate.

Most democrats on the committee have said they will support Lam’s main rival John Tsang, a former finance minister seen as a more moderate establishment figure.

Tsang drew thousands of supporters to his final campaign rally in central Hong Kong Friday night, and is a clear favourite in most public opinion polls.

However, the vast majority of Hong Kong’s 3.8 million voters do not participate in the selection of the chief executive and Lam is widely expected to win thanks to support from pro-China members of the election committee.

Democracy campaigners marching Saturday from the commercial area of Causeway Bay to a square near Sunday’s voting venue said regardless of what people thought of the individual candidates, the system needed to change.

“I feel our power is still not strong enough to bargain with the Beijing government,” said lawmaker Eddie Chu, but he added he still believed universal suffrage was Hong Kong’s destiny.

The 2014 rallies left campaigners frustrated they could not force concessions from China and sparked a new wave of young activists calling for self-determination or full independence for Hong Kong.

However, it is not only the younger generation who are dissatisfied.

One 59-year-old protester who gave her name as Miss Lau said most Hong Kong residents want their own vote.

“I’m a Hong Kong citizen — it is my right,” she told AFP.

“We don’t want the government to ignore us.”

Hong Kong Looks To Pick a New Leader — But China May Have The Biggest Vote

March 1, 2017

HONG KONG — Two former officials and a retired judge on Wednesday won the right to compete to become the next leader of Hong Kong, a job that requires balancing the demands of Communist Party rulers in Beijing and growing calls for democracy at home.

The next chief executive, the fourth since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule 20 years ago, must restore the public’s faith in the “one country, two systems” formula that promises extensive autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

Former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam meets journalists after delivering nomination forms to take part in the upcoming Chief Executive election in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
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That principle has come under strain with what many residents see as creeping interference by China in the financial hub’s legal affairs and freedom of speech, not least with the shadowy detention of five Hong Kong booksellers in late 2015.

The contest for the five-year term is the first since mass pro-democracy street protests rocked Hong Kong in late 2014, ending with the streets being cleared and no concession by the government, denting the popularity of incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying, who is not seeking a second term.

“I hear clear and loud the people want the society to be unified again. People want to restore social harmony, so Hong Kong can move on with the many issues we need to tackle,” former civil service chief and election frontrunner Carrie Lam told reporters on Monday.

Former Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam, Judge Woo Kwok-hing and former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah (from left). Photo: Reuters

Former Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam, Judge Woo Kwok-hing and former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah (from left). Photo: Reuters
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Lam, 59, grabbed the most nominations out of a 1,200-strong committee stacked mostly with Beijing loyalists. The same committee will pick the next leader in a secret ballot on March 26.

Lam, who if elected would become Hong Kong’s first female leader, said she would not rush into “extremely controversial” issues like reforming Hong Kong’s largely undemocratic system.

She was the flag-bearer for a contentious Beijing-backed political reform package that was rejected by pro-democracy lawmakers and seen as a trigger for the months-long, sometimes violent “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014.

DIVIDED CITY

Former Financial Secretary John Tsang, who leads public popularity polls, and outspoken retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, also made it on the ballot after nominations closed on Wednesday.

They are competing over a divided city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken against a nascent independence movement in Hong Kong, warnings echoed by many establishment figures.

But many local people were alarmed by the detention of the five Hong Kong-based booksellers by mainland Chinese agents, sparking an outcry over Beijing’s encroachment in the city.

The winner of the race will likely be sworn in by Xi on the day of the 20th anniversary of the 1997 handover on July 1.

Although most in the public have no votes, the “election” has been the talk of the city for months, with the candidates’ photos and caricatures dominating newspaper frontpages and Facebook walls.

Lam, nicknamed “fighter”, is widely rumored to be the preferred candidate of Beijing. Multiple media outlets, citing sources, reported Beijing’s number three official, Zhang Dejiang, in early February called her the “only candidate supported by the central government”.

She also received backing from many of the city’s powerful property tycoons, but the richest of them all, Li Ka-shing, has refrained from publicly throwing his support behind any candidate so far.

However Beijing’s perceived warm embrace of Lam could backfire in her popularity polls. Her promise to eventually continue political reform but only under a Beijing framework irked the democrats. Out of the 579 nominations she received, none came from them.

Her major contender, Tsang, 65, received just enough nominations, mostly from democrats, to get on the ballot.

Affectionately called “Uncle Pringles” for his resemblance to the crisps brand icon, Tsang presents a softer image more in touch with the city’s youth, even doing a Facebook live interview.

But Tsang has flip-flopped on Beijing’s framework for political reform, and his U.S. education and former post as the last British governor’s secretary have raised concerns among some pro-establishment figures.

(Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Greg Torode and Nick Macfie)

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Carrie Lam, John Tsang, Woo Kwok-hing run for HK’s top job

Election Committee will choose Hong Kong’s next leader on March 26

FEBRUARY 28, 2017 2:22 PM (UTC+8)
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Former Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing have gathered enough nominations from the Election Committee to run for the post of Chief Executive.

Lam said on Tuesday that she has secured backing from 579 of the 1,194 Election Committee members, RTHK reported. She is the third person to submit her nominations to become an official candidate in the upcoming poll, following Tsang and Woo.

Lam failed to get any nominations from the 326 pro-democracy committee members.

Tsang was declared an official candidate on Sunday, after he submitted his application with 160 nominations a day earlier. Among his nominators, 35 were from the pro-establishment camp while the remainder were pan-democrats.

Woo was also confirmed as a candidate with 179 nominations on Monday, all from the pan-democratic camp. He said Monday that he will try his best to stop Lam from winning the election as she is more of an autocrat than the current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

A minimum of 150 nominations are needed to join the election. The Election Committee will choose from the candidates on March 26. Candidates need more than 600 votes to win. 

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a Legislative Council member and a co-founder of the New People’s Party, is unlikely to be able to secure enough nominations before the Wednesday deadline.

Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair, a lawmaker of the League of Social Democrats, said Saturday he will not run as he failed to get enough public support from an informal civil nomination process. 

http://www.atimes.com/article/carrie-lam-john-tsang-woo-kwok-hing-run-hks-top-job/

Beijing’s Shadow Looms Over Hong Kong Elections

February 28, 2017

Pressure from mainland China urges electors to support specific candidate

“The election is becoming more of a typical Chinese election, where the winner is known before the ballots are even cast.”

No automatic alt text available.

Hong Kong will elect its new leader on March the 26th. Although many Hong Kongers would like everyone to have a vote, the system to elect a new chief executive is a far cry from universal suffrage. Graphic: Sharon Shi for The Wall Street Journal

Updated Feb. 28, 2017 9:09 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—Michael Tien, one of nearly 1,200 electors who will select Hong Kong’s equivalent of governor in March, said he received an unusual request recently.

A caller claiming to represent the interests of Beijing asked Mr. Tien to ditch the candidate he supported and back another: Hong Kong’s former No. 2 official, Carrie Lam. Mr. Tien, a dapper Hong Kong city councilman and businessman, said he worried that refusing could lead to retribution by authorities in mainland China.

The acquaintance who called him “was a person deeply connected in China, whom I cannot name for obvious reasons,” said the 66-year-old Mr. Tien. “I was surprised by the boldness of the call, since I have been so public about supporting another candidate.” Mr. Tien said he was unpersuaded.

Other electors and candidates in the race have also acknowledged the existence of calls or pressure from Chinese individuals claiming government backing and urging them to support Ms. Lam. The electors have until March 1 to publicly nominate a list of finalists who will contend in a March 26 ballot.

Carrie Lam, a candidate for the next chief executive of Hong Kong, faces a group of pro-democracy protesters calling for real universal suffrage.

Carrie Lam, a candidate for the next chief executive of Hong Kong, faces a group of pro-democracy protesters calling for real universal suffrage. PHOTO: ALEX HOFFORD/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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On paper, Hong Kong, a former British colony, is a semiautonomous region of China with substantial leeway to elect its leaders. In practice, China’s thumb is on the scales, encroachment that has some here worried that other hallmarks of autonomy could be eroded as well.

While political analysts say China has influenced elections in the past, including indicating preferences for candidates, the influence has deepened recently, with pressure to pick certain candidates more widespread and beginning earlier in the process.

“What’s going on now is even more outrageous than what happened in the past,” said Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “The election is becoming more of a typical Chinese election, where the winner is known before the ballots are even cast.”

The China Liaison Office, the central government’s headquarters in Hong Kong, denied allegations that Beijing is working behind the scenes to influence the vote.

Chinese authorities already approve the candidates, who are nominated and then selected by an electoral committee stacked with pro-Beijing members.

Across China, Chinese President Xi Jinping is tightening political control ahead of a Communist Party congress later this year that is expected to further cement his leadership. For Hong Kong, that means having a leader in place who can avoid disturbances like the pro-democracy protests that paralyzed the city in 2014, China experts say.

Until January, Mr. Tien’s candidate, Regina Ip, was thought by many in Hong Kong to be Beijing’s favorite. Though unpopular in Hong Kong, the 66-year-old former security secretary burnished her pro-China credentials trying to pass an authoritarian anti-sedition law in 2003. The move brought a half million protesters to the streets, and the law fizzled.

In January, Mr. Tien and others said the phone calls began, urging them to get behind Ms. Lam, who had recently entered the race. Ms. Lam, who had been the second-highest ranking Hong Kong official after current Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, showed her loyalty to Beijing by leading a government response to the 2014 pro-democracy protests.

John Tsang, Hong Kong's former financial secretary, is considered the underdog candidate in the coming election.

John Tsang, Hong Kong’s former financial secretary, is considered the underdog candidate in the coming election.PHOTO: ANTHONY KWAN/BLOOMBERG NEWS
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Beijing approved Ms. Lam’s candidacy in days while others waited weeks, creating a buzz around Ms. Lam’s bid.

Ms. Ip told local media she was getting phone calls with offers of government jobs if she dropped out of the race, offers she said she refused. She declined to comment.

The Lam campaign rejects the notion that the race is already decided. Though not acknowledging direct support, campaign official Bernard Chan says encouragement from Beijing is only one element in the race. Mr. Chan is organizing Lam campaign rallies to build her popularity, which he says can influence the decisions of the electors.

“If this is a done deal, then why am I working so hard?” he asked.

One reason: Beijing could change its mind. In the last election, Chinese authorities appeared to support one candidate, only to push for Mr. Leung late in the race, according to political analysts. This time, Mr. Leung had been expected to run for a second term but bowed out—under pressure from Beijing, analysts say. Mr. Leung has denied Beijing influence and said his decision was personal.

The underdog candidate is John Tsang, a popular, mustachioed former finance secretary who went to high school and university in the U.S. Hong Kongers applaud him for openly supporting the city in a recent soccer match against a Beijing team, as other politicians declined to commit.

Polls show Mr. Tsang is more popular than Ms. Lam. The same polls show locals expect Ms. Lam to win because she has Beijing’s support.

But Mr. Tsang is no stranger in Beijing, either, having worked with Chinese authorities as a Hong Kong official for years. He recently suggested he would consider the controversial anti-sedition law sought by Beijing, a pro-China gesture. Observers have made much of the fact that Mr. Xi singled out Mr. Tsang for a handshake during a 2015 political meeting.

At a crowded Tsang campaign rally recently, supporter Gordon Poon pushed into the news mob and declared: “I support John Tsang because he is the only candidate not totally controlled by China.”

“How can you be sure he is not?” a nearby reporter asked, turning her camera to him.

Write to John Lyons at john.lyons@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-hong-kong-elections-beijings-shadow-looms-large-1488288813