With high-profile businessman Ricky Wong announcing that he may participate in the Legislative Council election, the September contest could well turn out to be a de-facto referendum on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Wong, the boss of Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), said Wednesday that his potential run for a LegCo seat will have one key campaign theme: the city’s need for leadership change in 2017.
Saying that “Hong Kong needs an honest leader”, Wong made it clear that his election platform will have an anti-Leung agenda.
The city cannot afford a fresh term for Leung next year, the maverick businessman said, pointing to increased divisions in society and other problems Hong Kong has faced in the past four years.
Hong Kong is at a crossroads, he said, adding that the territory needs a leader with a softer touch who can handle things better, on issues such as political reforms and dealings with the mainland.
Aiming to spread the message that Leung should go, Wong said he hopes other LegCo election candidates would also make their stand clear on the incumbent chief executive.
Well, the comments have fueled speculation that Wong’s participation in the September election could lead to a churn in the local political landscape.
His “Anyone but CY”, or ABC, platform could help break the wall between the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps and add to the numbers of those arguing against a fresh term for Leung.
If candidates not favorably disposed to Leung secure enough seats in the new legislature, Beijing will be forced to listen to their voices and pick another person for Hong Kong’s top job next year.
The timing of Wong’s announcement is significant as it came just a week before a top mainland official, Zhang Dejiang, visits Hong Kong in a trip seen as an inspection exercise on Leung.
Wong’s public comments on the need for new leader will prompt more debates in the run-up to the 2017 chief executive election, and serve as a warning to Beijing’s top leaders that a fresh term for Leung could only bring more trouble and deepen the conflicts between China and Hong Kong people.
Wong is one of the best persons to lead the anti-Leung camp during the September LegCo election as he has been a victim of the policies of the current administration.
HKTV was denied a free-to-air television license in 2013, reducing choices for Hong Kong TV viewers. The government decision was seen arbitrary, prompting thousands of people to take to the streets.
As the media company sought a review of the decision, the Leung regime has resorted to a legal battle with HKTV.
Following his troubles, Wong believes that under Leung the rules of doing business have changed in the city. “Is Hong Kong under the rule of law, or rule by CY Leung,” the entrepreneur wondered aloud in 2013.
The TV license saga was seen as an example of the government failing to follow the rules of game in decision-making, going instead by the chief executive’s personal whims.
As concerns are growing in Hong Kong’s business sector about Leung’s governance approach, and the leader’s tendency to blindly follow Beijing’s policy game plan and ignoring Hong Kong’s own interests, Wong could see some other prominent people join him on the anti-Leung platform.
While the business sector is part of the establishment, it cannot be deemed to be an unquestioning member of the pro-Beijing camp.
Despite playing safe on issues related to Hong Kong-China relations, most businessmen want the city to uphold things such as transparency, fairness and justice.
Preserving the city’s core values is seen essential for maintaining Hong Kong’s competitiveness on the global stage.
Some observers have wondered if there is a hidden agenda behind Wong’s LegCo bid.
A Legislative Council seat may give Wong a platform to spread his anti-Leung message, but can he really make a difference without being part of a political party or alliance, the skeptics say.
Wong had been a member of the Liberal Party for a while in the 90s, and there is a possibility that he could in fact strike some partnership with the party during the upcoming election.
Given the high name recognition and good reputation, it won’t be a surprise if Wong manages to make his way into the LegCo.
As his key aim is to prevent Leung from getting a second term, it is important that Wong collaborate with like-minded figures and political groups in order to ensure significant gains in LegCo and put pressure on Beijing.
A lot will depend on how keen candidates from the pro-democracy camp would be on a partnership.
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