By Stephanie LI Yingliang
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, former chief secretary, won Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election with 777 votes earlier today and will become the city’s first female and fifth-term top leader since its handover to China in 1997.
The result was announced at 1:36 p.m. by the Returning Officer Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling, declaring that Lam was elected as she had obtained more than 600 valid votes out of 1,194, the required amount to secure a win.
The two other candidates, former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah and Judge Woo Kwok-hing, got 365 and 21 votes respectively.
The vote closed at 11 a.m., and the main polling station and the central counting station are located at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The final turnout was 99 percent, with 1,186 members of the Election Committee casting their secret ballots.
(Police are guarding outside the polling center at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Wan Chai. Photo by Stephanie LI)
At the following press conference, Lam said her office’s priority would be to “consolidate the divisive society” and to win trust from those who supported her and those have not, promising to “be open to different opinions.” She also expressed thanks to the other candidates.
Lam vows to improve on livelihood matters such as housing, education and poverty in her election platform. She also urges society to set aside differences, but refused to touch on sensitive matters like political reforms.
She entered the race with a sweeping number of nominations from the Election Committee, with 579 members backing her bid for the job, yet none of the votes comes from the Pro-democrats. Tsang and Woo were only able to secure 160 and 179 endorsements respectively.
Underdog candidate Tsang was reported to be best supported by the Pro-democracy voters. The popular former Finance Secretary thanked his supporters and said people should give Lam a chance “in defending Hong Kong’s core values, and making Hong Kong better.”
Contenders have to obtain no less than 150 nominations from 1,200 members of the Election Committee, which is composed of four main sectors: the professional sector, the industrial, commercial and financial sectors, and the social services and religious sector. The last sector includes legislators, District Councilors, and other political heavyweights.
The Pro-democracy camp garnered 327 seats in the committee, leaving the ruling Pro-Beijing camp a little more than 800 votes.
(Legislators of the Pan-democracy camp are speaking to a group of protestors outside of the polling center, defending their decision to cast a blank vote. Photo by Stephanie LI)
Speaking outside of the polling center, opposition leaders and lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, confirmed they had cast blank votes in protest of the current system.
Chanting “we want a genuine universal suffrage,” Leung urged people to protest in front of the Liaison Office of the central government on April.1.
The election system is often mocked as “small-circle election,” which will only destroy the promise of the city’s “high degree of autonomy,” said Safina Lam, member of the Election Committee in the City Forum last Sunday.
“Distrust will be further deepened between the government and the people if Mrs. Lam becomes the next Chief Executive,” she said.
According to the Joint Declaration signed by China and the United Kingdom in 1997, when the former British colony was returned to Beijing’s rule, Hong Kong should preserve a “high degree of autonomy” and have the right to elect its local authorities under the Basic Law.
Yet the central government has laid down its four standards in choosing a top leader for Hong Kong, including “love the country and love Hong Kong; be trusted by Beijing; be capable in governing; supported by Hong Kong people,” which was listed by Wang Guangya, the Director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
(Protesters gather outside of the polling center, waving flags and signing to express their discontent to the result and the so-called “small-circle election.” Photo by Stephanie LI)
(Leftist advocate groups show their support to Lam by wearing in a Chinese symbol color red and waving the national flag. “I believe she is a great leader under the ‘One Country Two System’ policy,” said Ms. LI, leader of a pro-Beijing organization. Photo by Stephanie LI)
Seen as Beijing’s preference, “Lam is better supported than the other two candidates,” said Legislator Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, staff member of Lam’s campaign office.
However, despite Lam’s popularity among the Election Committee members, she appeared to be the least desirable leader for the city, according a mock vote conducted by the University of Hong Kong last week.
Tsang is backed by 91.9 percent by 65,000 mock ballots from the general public, and Lam got 96.1 percent saying that they opposed her to be the next top leader.
Incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whose term ends on June 30 this year, congratulated Lam’s winning and expressed support to a smooth transition to the next government.
Leung announced last December that he would not seek a second term. He was elected vice-chairman of China’s top consultative body, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference earlier this month.
Chief Executive Election Ordinance stated that any Hong Kong permanent resident and Chinese citizen, who has reached 40 years of age and has lived in the city for more than 20 years, is eligible for nomination as a candidate.
However, a decision made by China’s legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on August 31, 2014, or known as the “831 decision,” has set limits to contenders wishing to bid for the top job as they must “love the country and love Hong Kong.”
The decision has been seen as a screening process to cast out opposition candidates, as Beijing’s way to shut the door to the city’s universal suffrage.
Thousands of protesters took to the street in the “Occupy Central” campaign, also known as the “Umbrella Movement” in September 2014 following the decision, voicing their demand for a “genuine universal suffrage.”
“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,” as stated in the city’s de facto constitution.