Leung Chun Ying

Let's hear it from the candidates

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am

The curtain has finally been raised on the election to choose our city's next leader. We have known for many weeks that Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying would stand, but their formal declarations at the weekend take their campaigns to a new stage. It is time for them to move beyond publicity-seeking measures and to engage the public in a more meaningful way. Instead of competing to be the first to declare or making a big show of who their supporters are, the candidates should roll out detailed policy platforms and explain how they believe they can rise to the challenges facing Hong Kong.

Tang and Leung both have rich experience and strong ties in Hong Kong and Beijing, yet they seek to distinguish themselves in terms of personal background, ability, and their circles of supporters. Leung has stressed his humble origins, perhaps to contrast them with Tang's wealthy family background. With few big names in his election team so far, the former Executive Council convenor opted for a more down-to-earth declaration. Tang, on the other hand, has played on his support from the rich and famous. Hit by the fallout from his confession to having 'strayed' in his love life, Tang is fighting to close the gap in the popularity ratings. He has sought to draw the public's attention to his strong base of support with influential figures from different sectors openly pledging support for him last week.

Each candidate has their strengths and weaknesses. Widely seen as more decisive, Leung is already advocating change at a moderate pace. Tang has been described as a good listener who will consult broadly before shaping a consensus to move forward. It is, perhaps, too early to judge who is the stronger candidate. First, we need to debate what Hong Kong needs and what solutions are being offered. The choice of a new leader is a serious matter. It is regrettable that the race has been dubbed by some as a choice between 'the pig and the wolf', an apparent reference to the candidates' perceived intellect and character. Instead of calling people names, the competition should be one based on leadership, experience and policies for the next five years and beyond. The ballot is confined to 1,200 of our city's seven million population, but the preference of the people could - and should - have some bearing on the outcome. This appears to have been recognised by the candidates, who have been reaching out to different sectors as they would in a more democratic election. That is a welcome development, especially as this is expected to be the last chief executive election before the introduction of universal suffrage.

The race has just begun. We need to hear more from Tang, Leung, Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan and any other candidates who may stand. The election is an opportunity to get to grips with the issues facing Hong Kong and it should not be wasted.