This year’s Hong Kong Chief Executive Election has been anything but normal. As I noted last time, it was instrumental in creating new norms that I feel will be beneficial in the future. One of the more interesting aspects was of this years campaign was the swings in public opinion, which I believe had a distinct impact on the race as a whole. More interestingly, was support for any of the candidates a ‘Yes’ in support of them, or merely a ‘No’ in opposition?
From the off, Leung chun-ying seemed to have the upper hand in public opinion, with regular reports of how he was besting Henry Tang by sometimes double digits. On the surface of it, it seemed that the Hong Kong people prefered Leung, who was seen as having an outsiders chance of dethroning Tang, who at the time was perceived as ‘China’s pick’. In many respects, this may be true. Certainly, Tang was the first to be hit by a series of scandals with his marriage laid out in full view, followed by massive cranes being put outside his Kowloon Tong residence. So in the midst of the campaign, you had Leung, who was seen as popular and the people’s choice, in comparison to Tang who was scandal hit and China’s choice.
With Tang’s rather unwarranted outbursts revealing Exco meeting details, it became increasingly clear that he would be an unviable candidate, lacking both public opinion and having a long series of unforced errors. Attention then swung quite strongly towards Leung. However, Leung turned out to have a closet of his own with allegations of corruption and very-late-coming allegations from Tang of being an advocate for greater power and more limited freedoms. Also, in the closing stages of the campaign, there were further questions as to whether Leung was an underground member of the Chinese Communist Party. All this helped turn the perception of Leung as the under-dog to the presumed Chinese pick, something that the Chinese liaison office seemed to support by almost openly canvasing for electors to vote for Leung.