22 July 2019
Tsai Ing-wen wins in Taiwan with 6.89 million votes, while CY Leung (inset) only got 689 votes in 2012. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ
Tsai Ing-wen wins in Taiwan with 6.89 million votes, while CY Leung (inset) only got 689 votes in 2012. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

689: The difference between Tsai Ing-wen and CY Leung

Call it fate, happenstance or whatever, but there seems to be a magic number that ties Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying: It’s 689.

Tsai secured a landslide victory in Saturday’s election by grabbing 6.89 million votes. On the other hand, CY Leung only got 689 votes to win the race for the top post in 2012.

But while Tsai got a popular mandate, Leung obtained his vote from a 1,200-member election committee. The difference is democracy.

In fact, Tsai got more votes this time (6.8947 million) than when Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou beat her in 2012 with the same magic number (6.8911 million).

Tsai, Ma and Leung have a common first name “Ying/ing” – which means “English”.

Of course, CY could brag about having a higher percentage of the vote (57.4 percent) than Tsai (56.1 percent) and Ma (51.6 percent).

But again, the difference is democracy. Tsai and Ma were both elected by the people, while our highly articulate but very unpopular leader was voted by an appointed panel.

With his ratings plumbing the depths, Leung certainly would not have made it had there been universal suffrage.

Asked about his unpopularity on RTHK last week, Leung shot back, “Was I unpopular?” Well, he admitted that he was unpopular after being shown the public poll results during his reign over the past three and a half years.

To be sure, he was unpopular not because of his land policy (arguably he was quite popular because of his land policy), but because he did not get from his Beijing masters the true democracy that Hong Kong people wanted.

By contrast, Tsai proclaimed in her victory speech that “Taiwan is freedom” and “Taiwan is democracy”. He said these core values are “in our blood”.

(Perhaps Red Cross Taiwan can give us more democracy.)

There is something special about Tsai because she represents the first female Chinese leader since nearly 1,400 years ago when Empress Wu assumed her reign in the Tang dynasty, several netizens have noted.

Of course, Tsai has a different style. Unlike her Democratic Progress Party predecessors who made emotional and long-winded speeches, the soft-spoken yet tough leader exerted soft power and often ended her lines by asking, “Am I right?”

Her first order to her government was to “be humble, humble and stay humble”.

Tsai joins the ranks of powerful national leaders, who include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was chosen Time’s Person of the Year in 2015, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

Soft power is definitely on the rise. United States’ Hillary Clinton could be the next one, if her second crack at the White House succeeds this time around.

Having a female president in China is kind of unthinkable right now, but we bet it is possible for Hong Kong to have a female chief executive one day.

However, that’s not as important an issue as having true democracy in Hong Kong.

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EJ Insight writer

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