China's favorite Lam wins HK leadership, vows to heal rifts

A committee in Hong Kong elected Carrie Lam as the city's first female chief executive Sunday.

The three candidates, Lam, Tsang and retired Judge Woo Kwok-hing, met and shook hands with electors as they arrived.

"It's not a matter of whether he will win or she will win", agreed Martin Lee, the democracy campaigner.

Ms Lam received 777 votes compared to 365 for her closest rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, who had registered as more popular in opinion polls. In an interview with Hong Kong's The Standard previous year, she said, "The first thing will be to visit my two sons as they are not in Hong Kong".

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing has gradually increased control over the territory, even though China had promised freedoms and autonomy under the formula of "one country, two systems".

At another pro-democracy rally, Takchi Tam, the vice president of People Power - a progressive democratic party in Hong Kong - pledged to soon organize a protest outside China's representative office in Hong Kong to express the party's disagreement with what it argues is the communist rulers' meddling in the election.

The vast majority of the city's 7.3 million people have no say in their next leader. I think she needs to consider more about the Hong Kong people, what they are thinking, what's their dream.

Security was tight around the harbourfront voting centre with metal barricades and large numbers of police deployed, and protesters were kept well away from the immediate vicinity. Last month, Chinese state leader Zhang Deijiang, visited Zhenzhen to lobby for Lam.

"Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a lot of divisiveness", Lam said in a speech after the vote.

"I think most Hong Kong people don't support [Lam]".

On Facebook, an online protest was launched called No Election in Hong Kong Now, which showed a video montage of regular citizens going about their business as the election took place to highlight how they were not entitled to vote. "She will only tell us what Beijing wants, and won't reflect what the people want to the communist regime".

With Lam's victory on the cards, some middle class residents see the lack of democracy again fuelling political division and fresh protests, leaving them powerless to tackle livelihood issues such as high property prices and rising inequality. But the pro-democracy movement as a whole has splintered and lost momentum.

Ms Lam will formally become head of the global financial hub on July 1, taking over from current leader Leung Chun-ying.

Kuomintang Legislator Lin Wei-chou said the results should be respected, but that Hong Kong should hold "real popular elections" in order to ease inner conflict and controversies. He also added that Hong Kong's next leader should stop appointing the same group of officials to agencies, and criticized former politicians, such as Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Lau Kong-wah or Greg So Kam-leung, who he described as "wishy-washy". Lam wants a similar future for Hong Kong, in which candidates for the chief executive race have to be endorsed by a "nomination committee".

She joins a select group of female leaders who have risen to the top job in Asia in recent years including Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, hugely distrusted by China, and ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who angered Beijing with her plans to deploy a US missile defence system to counter the threat from North Korea.

  • Leroy Wright