HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong committee has chosen the government’s former No. 2 official Carrie Lam to be the semiautonomous Chinese city’s next leader.
The 1,194-member election committee picked Lam to be Hong Kong’s new chief executive on Sunday. She will be the first female leader for the city and its fourth since British colonial control ended.
Her victory was no surprise because China’s communist leadership had lobbied the committee, dominated by pro-Beijing elites, to support her.
Pro-democracy activists have criticized the system as a “fake” election and it was at the root of huge protests in 2014.
Lam won with 777 votes while her closest rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, got 365 votes. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing had 21 votes.
Tsang was much more popular locally, but neither he nor Woo had Beijing’s backing.
The 1,194-member committee stacked with pro-Beijing business leaders and politicians chose Carrie Lam, a longtime city official who was widely viewed as Beijing’s favorite in the three-person race. During the campaign, electors acknowledged receiving phone calls from Beijing representatives instructing them to pick Ms. Lam.
The vote for chief executive comes at a sensitive time for Beijing. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China. Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping is tightening political control ahead of a Communist Party congress this fall that is expected to further cement his leadership. Both events put a premium on having a Hong Kong leader in place who can avoid political disturbances such as those in 2014, when dissatisfaction with the political process led to widespread pro-democracy protests.
Ms. Lam, a 59-year-old mother of two, steps into a post fraught with pitfalls. The longtime bureaucrat, who will become the city’s first female chief executive, must now balance the demands of mainland Chinese authorities who are seeking greater control over Hong Kong life with city residents who are accustomed to Western norms such as rule of law.
She defeated John Tsang, a U.S.-educated Hong Kong civil servant who polls indicated was far more popular than Ms. Lam, but who was widely seen as lacking the backing of Beijing. Ms. Lam garnered 777 votes, compared with 365 for Mr. Tsang and 21 for a third-place finisher. She will serve a five-year term.
Ms. Lam campaigned on increasing spending to alleviate day-to-day problems such as housing shortages and improve social services in a city with one of the widest rich-poor gaps for any developed society. … (read more)