Businessman Chosen As Hong Kong's Next Leader

Mar 26, 2012
Originally published on March 26, 2012 3:39 am
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DAVID GREEENE, HOST:

Now to Hong Kong, where there's a new leader. Self-made businessman and longtime government adviser, Leung Chun-ying was chosen by a select committee of business leaders and elites over the weekend. Leung has vowed to defend the semi-autonomous territory's freedoms.

But as NPR's Louisa Lim reports, he'll face big challenges dealing with Beijing when his term starts in July.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LOUISA LIM: The announcement was greeted with applause and jeers. Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes, or 60 percent, hardly a ringing endorsement given that the 1,000-plus voters were handpicked by Beijing. He was initially thought to be the underdog, but Beijing swung its support behind him after its favorite was discredited by scandal. Leung's been dogged by accusations he's a secret Communist Party member, something he denies. In his victory speech, punctuated with heckling, Leung Chun-ying sought to quell fears.

LEUNG CHUN-YING: To the seven million people, I solemnly pledge that after I take office, the freedoms and rights that they enjoy today will be maintained under my administration.

, BYLINE: But he will face problems due to his limited mandate. In a mock election, 200,000 people voted, more than half cast blank ballots in protest at the undemocratic election process. Leung is also unpopular with Hong Kong's powerful tycoons.

JAMES TIEN: People who know CY for 10, 15, 20 years have a problem supporting him.

, BYLINE: Speaking before the vote, James Tien, a member of the pro-business Liberal Party, outlined his reservations to NPR.

TIEN: A lot of us who know him that well is skeptical about how come he changed the position from ultra-conservative to extremely running a populist mandate.

, BYLINE: There are also reports mainland officials from the liaison office tried to suppress newspaper articles criticizing Leung.

Eric Ho from the Civil Human Rights Front says that's another reason this poll aroused strong feelings.

ERIC HO. CIVIL HUMAN RIGHTS FRONT: Because people are discontented, not just with CY Leung, but also with the intervention of Beijing by the liaison office.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

, BYLINE: More than 2,000 protested outside the poll venue, shouting down with Leung Chun-ying. They're organizing another march this weekend. The selection process may be over, but its polarizing effects will continue.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.