Beijing Backs Carrie Lam

The Hong Kong Chief Executive election of 2017 is just under two months away. Ming Pao and Sing-Tao Daily have reported that Zhang Dejiang, the Beijing government official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, has backed Former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, making her the only candidate with the support of Chinese officials and government instruments like the China Liaison Office.

Lam, who orchestrated the controversial Palace Museum replica deal at the end of last year, is set for a battle against Harvard-educated former Financial Secretary John Tsang. While the public is heavily opposed to the pro-Beijing Lam, the next Chief Executive will ultimately be selected by the small-circle, 1200-member Election Committee (EC) rather than by universal suffrage. Pro-democracy members currently hold around 25% of the EC seats, while pro-Beijing members occupy the remaining seats.

It is the lack of universal suffrage in this 2017 election that fueled the Occupy Central protests of 2014. As stated in the Basic Law:

“The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

In implementing Article 45 of Hong Kong Basic Law, Beijing had established a constitutional obligation to endow Hong Kong with the right to universal suffrage. However, by deferring this obligation year after year, Beijing has shown complete disregard the words enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Meanwhile, the month-long gap between Tsang’s resignation as Financial Secretary and Beijing’s approval of his resignation has stirred controversy. Many say that the delay is a political tactic to deter him from running in the race, or perhaps an opportunity for his rival Lam to get a head-start on planning and coordinating her campaign. Some balked at the notion that Tsang’s resignation required Beijing’s approval at all.

Image Credit: South China Morning Post

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