Our web poll last week neatly echoed the sentiments of most Hong Kong voters. Asked to predict who will be the territory’s next chief executive, half the respondents opted for Leung Chun-ying — the popular favourite according to the latest poll by the University of Hong Kong (a translation of which can be found here, courtesy of Google).
According to HKU’s results, Leung enjoys a commanding lead over his two official rivals: Henry Tang and Albert Ho. In a choice between those three, 51% of respondents picked Leung, compared to just 18% for Tang and 13% for Ho, who scored lower than “None of the above”.
In effect, the election became a race between Leung and Tang when Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing backed out of the race last week, giving Chinese officials the two-horse contest that they reportedly prefer.
Our question differed from the HKU poll in that it offered a choice between Leung, Tang or “Someone else”. Even so, Leung attracted almost identical support among our readers, while Tang picked up Ho’s share of the vote to register a combined 32% score.
We also asked readers who they expected to win, rather than who they wanted to, but it seems that most ignored that.
In practice, Hong Kong voters will not get to choose. The next chief executive will be selected by a 1,200-strong election committee, comprising politicians and business leaders. The nomination process gives a strong indication to the running on that score, with Tang leading Leung by 390 nominations to 305 when the three candidates were formally selected last week.
However, Tang’s popularity has slumped recently as the media has hounded him over the construction of an illegal basement at his home (for which he blamed his wife) and an affair with his former assistant (for which his wife has forgiven him).
Tang fared even worse in a public debate on the environment held at Hong Kong’s City University last week, winning just 2% of the votes from an audience of 500 people. He was booed three times during his answers.
Leung has not escaped criticism. He stands accused of showing bias during the contest to select a design for the city’s cultural arts hub in 2002. The current chief executive, Donald Tsang, has also come in for public criticism for cosying up to tycoons and Hong Kong residents are increasingly vocal in their opposition to the right of abode for the children of mainland mothers (whom they dubbed “locusts” in a recent newspaper ad) and the distortion of the local property market by Chinese buyers.
In response, LegCo has been flexing its muscles, demanding investigations into the various scandals plaguing the two main candidates.
Such disquiet is not pleasing to Chinese officials, who would like the new chief executive to be installed with a minimum of fuss (and public input). It would also like LegCo to stay in its place and leave the running of Hong Kong to the executive branch.
To make matters worse for the Chinese, HKU is planning to run an electronic referendum on the candidates for chief executive just two days before the real election on March 25. The university has set up a website for its Project PopVote, where voters can pledge support for the public poll and find out how to take part.
It is unlikely (though not impossible) that the Hong Kong public will get the chief executive they want on March 25, but they may settle for annoying the bureaucrats in Beijing.
Henry Tang - 32%
CY Leung - 52%
Someone else - 16%