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Updated: March 25, 2012 23:06 IST

Hong Kong chooses new head in a bitter election

Ananth Krishnan
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Leung Chun-ying
AP Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong on Sunday appointed as its new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, a businessman with close ties to China, following a bitter election that brought to the fore growing public anger against corruption and a closed, elite-run political system.

Mr. Leung won 689 of the 1,200 votes cast by the committee of businessmen and political insiders who appoint Hong Kong's Chief Executive. His nearest rival was industrialist Henry Tang, who was seen as the favourite before being embroiled in a scandal over allegations of corruption and an extra-marital affair.

Beijing's backing

Mr. Tang was earlier seen as the politician with the backing of Beijing, which administers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the “one country, two systems” model, guaranteeing the former British colony semi-autonomy and democratic freedoms.

Following the scandal, Mr. Leung appeared to emerge with the Central government's backing. But his victory, too, was far from smooth; marred by protests and a mock election over the weekend that issued strong calls for reforming the political system.

Hong Kong's seven million residents have no say in the election, which is decided entirely by 1,200 votes. Beijing has committed to holding direct elections by 2017.

For some, that wait is too long. As many as 54 per cent of the 222,990 residents who voted in the mock poll on Saturday casted a blank vote, underscoring their disapproval of the entire system. Mr. Leung won 17.8 per cent of the votes, while Mr. Tang secured 16.3 per cent.

“Casting a blank vote is a way of sending a message to the central government and the Election Committee that Hongkongers want none of the three candidates, especially the two from the pro-establishment camp,” political analyst James Sung Lap-kung told the South China Morning Post.

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