A chance for the city to move on and prosper

Hong Kong’s new leader will face great challenges, and must be competent, innovative, and most importantly, have the trust of the central government to protect the one country, two systems concept

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 3:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 3:16am

Anew chapter in Hong Kong’s history begins tomorrow, with the election of the city’s next leader. During the campaign, the three candidates have sparred in public debates and stressed their relative merits. But it is after the election that the real work will begin. The new leader will face great challenges and must have the qualities needed to lead Hong Kong to a better future.

Former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is the strong favourite, having received Beijing’s backing. She enjoys the support of most pro-establishment voters on 1,194-member Election Committee. Lam is expected to secure more votes than ex-finance minister John Tsang Chun-wah, who is backed mainly by democrats on the committee. He remains the most popular candidate with the people, according to opinion polls. Former judge Woo Kwok-hing, who has livened up the campaign with his straight-talking style, is considered an outsider. After the poll, it is important that the community accept the outcome and give the leader a fair opportunity to succeed.

Another leadership election in Hong Kong, another bureaucrat in charge – and five more years of the same

The new chief executive should be someone who has the ability to uphold and protect the one country, two systems concept. This is vital for Hong Kong. In order to achieve that, the leader must have the trust of the central government. Trust, in this sense, does not mean simply acting as a channel for whatever Beijing wants. The chief executive must stand up for Hong Kong’s interests and ensure the central government knows how the city’s people really feel. With the trust of Beijing, the city’s leader can better safeguard the city’s interests. Hong Kong’s interests and those of the country are not mutually exclusive. Only if trusted by Beijing can the chief executive achieve results which benefit both sides.

The new leader has to be competent and capable. Hong Kong needs new, innovative policies in a wide range of areas, from housing to narrowing the wealth gap and ensuring the city stays competitive. Popularity is important, but it is not the only factor to be considered. Previous chief executives have been popular when elected, only to see their support in the community plunge after taking office. The winner must earn their popularity and the true test will come later in their term when a judgement can be made on how they have performed.

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It must be accepted that Hong Kong is a city with deep political divisions. There is no easy or quick way of bridging the gap in society. The democrats should, however, be prepared to work with the new leader. They backed Tsang in a bid to become the kingmaker, but if they fail and Lam is elected, they should explore areas of agreement with her. In this way, it is to be hoped Hong Kong can move on from recent turbulent events and prosper.