Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hong Kong leader hopefuls in final campaign push

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leadership candidates launched a final push for votes on Saturday, on the eve of the hardest fought election since the city's handover from British rule in 1997.

Former property consultant Leung Chun-ying is tipped to win a majority of votes in the electoral college when the 1,200 mainly pro-Beijing delegates meet to choose the regional financial centre's new chief executive on Sunday.

The 57-year-old son of a policeman had secured between 563 and 643 votes as of Friday, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, after the biggest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said they would support him as the city's new leader.

His main rival, former businessman Henry Tang, dismissed reports that he was considering bowing out of the race.

"I will use the rest of my time to continue canvassing for votes," Tang told a news conference, flanked by his wife and sons, while conceding that he is facing an "uphill battle".

"When I announced my candidacy, I had every expectation that it would be a long and treacherous campaign. Indeed it has been," the 59-year-old heir of a textile fortune said.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control from British rule in 1997, with a semi-autonomous status that guarantees broad social freedoms under limited democracy.

Outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang and his predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, the city's first post-handover leader, were elected virtually unopposed after receiving the open backing of Beijing.

But the 2012 vote has divided the semi-autonomous territory's establishment and challenged Beijing's carefully balanced model of governance in partnership with the city's business elite.

Tang was seen as a shoo-in for the job when he launched his campaign with the backing of tycoons such as Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing.

But a series of scandals involving his personal life, including the discovery of an illegal entertainment suit at his luxury home, saw his approval ratings plunge and reportedly prompted Beijing to shift support to Leung.

Leung is also an establishment figure but lacks Tang's insider status with the city's business community. He refused to comment on his chances when asked by the local media on Saturday.

The election has been complicated by the behind-the-scenes machinations of mainland China's own once-in-a-decade leadership struggle, with various factions seeking to flex their muscles ahead of the transition later this year.

- AFP/cc

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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