24 August 2019
Antony Leung is seen as a potential contender in Hong Kong's 2017 chief executive election, but will he be able to enthuse the voters?
Antony Leung is seen as a potential contender in Hong Kong's 2017 chief executive election, but will he be able to enthuse the voters?

Why HK needs fresh faces in its political arena

Tung Chee-hwa has just established a think tank called ‘Our Hong Kong Foundation’. As the former Hong Kong leader is adept at playing kingmaker, the new entity could serve as a promotional and policy platform to groom ex-financial secretary Antony Leung for the 2017 chief executive election.

Another possible candidate would be Regina Ip, the chairperson of New People’s Party.

The two are both the legacy of the Tung era. Netizens have noted sarcastically that the former chief executive’s initiative has brought back terrible memories, including the bursting of the city’s housing bubble, the proposal to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, and education reform.

But, instead of journeying back to the old times, Hong Kong people need to be able to look ahead after the recent political conflicts and social tensions.

And for this, the city needs some fresh faces in its political arena, not the run-of-the-mill candidates. 

In this regard, Taiwan is much ahead.

An election campaign is in full swing in Taipei as the city prepares to choose a new mayor in two weeks.

A survey has shown that 47 percent of voters support independent candidate Ko Wen-je while 32 percent prefer Kuomintang Party (KMT) nominee Sean Lien.

Initially thought to have little chance of winning, Ko has gained a lot of momentum in the past few months.

That is despite the fact that Ko’s rival seems to have all it takes to become the leader of Taipei.

Sean Lien’s father Lien Chan was the chairman of KMT from 2000 to 2005; and his grandfather Lien Chen-tung was interior minister during the 1960s. 

Backed by a family legacy of respectable KMT leaders, Sean Lien easily built his image as a politician with international vision and a clear target to boost Taipei’s economy.

Back in 2010, he was shot in the face when he was campaigning for a Sinbei councilor candidate in a Taipei county. That helped Lien win public sympathy.

In contrast, Ko has zero political experience. He spent most of his life performing heart surgeries. But it is exactly his lack of political baggage that the voters like. As people have become tired of old-style politics, Lien’s impressive background and political ties are no longer absolute advantages.

How popular is Ko? His campaign office said that it expects to collect sufficient funds to run the campaign until the Nov. 29 election day and would therefore stop taking donations by this Saturday. Ko has raised NT$89 million (US$2.9 million) in campaign funds so far.

Why are Taipei voters suddenly in love with the amateur politician? Ko Tin-yao, a columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal, has noted that the Sunflower student movement in March had totally changed the public sentiment toward the political status quo.

The movement was in protest against a bid by the KMT to pass a cross-strait service trade agreement at the legislature without an item-by-item review. The campaign led to fresh political awakening in the island, Ko pointed out.

Voters want a leader who can bring fresh ideas and practices.

Barack Obama, the president of the United States, was also relatively inexperienced when he took the reins of the most powerful nation on earth. Obama had served as Illinois senator for only three years before moving into the White House in January 2009. His rivals had criticized him for having little top-level political experience, but this in fact proved to be an advantage.

Many people were attracted by his promise that he will usher in change and bring a fresh perspective to Washington, helping the country.

Now, coming back to Hong Kong, there are hardly any new faces in the political ring in the city.

But we still have three years to go before the next chief executive election. So, one can still hope that an amateur politician will step on to the political stage and promise to fix the broken political system.

Or, is it too much to ask, given the prevailing situation in the territory?

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EJ Insight writer

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