28 October 2016
Six lawmakers have formed the Professionals Guild to coordinare efforts in 11 election committee races. Photo: HKEJ
Six lawmakers have formed the Professionals Guild to coordinare efforts in 11 election committee races. Photo: HKEJ

CE election committee: Does it really matter?

In a scant few weeks, an election will take place to pick the 1,200 members of a committee that will choose the next Hong Kong chief executive in March 2017.

Many Hong Kong people want to see the back of Leung Chun-ying after he finishes his five-year term but Beijing has yet to officially announce what to do with him one way or another.

In the meantime, pro-democracy forces have no plans at this time to put up a candidate but they are keen to boost their numbers on the election committee in order to influence the outcome.

They have formed a group, called Professionals Guild, to coordinate efforts in the election committee races in 11 professional sectors including medical, higher education, engineering, performing arts, sports, culture and publishing.

The group comprises six lawmakers from as many constituencies – legal, accountancy, information technology, education, social welfare and building and planning.

In 2011, the opposition had 205 members on the committee. They nominated Albert Ho to go up against Leung and then Chief Secretary Henry Tang.

This year, riding on the better than expected results from the recent Legislative Council elections, the opposition is aiming for up 300 seats on the committee.

The Legco election results underlined the influence of the Umbrella Movement which is working with other groups that have emerged since the 2014 street protests. 

With the committee leaning toward pro-establishment professionals and pro-Beijing politicians, it’s interesting that the newly elected lawmakers from the functional constituencies are planning to play a bigger role.

If the chief executive election ends up being a race between two candidates, each will need at least 600 votes to win.

In that case, the 300 projected votes from the opposition will be crucial.

That means it can play kingmaker, which also means it can dictate its own terms.

Any candidate that wants its support will have to subscribe to its core principles of universal suffrage and defense of Hong Kong’s uniqueness.

For his part, Leung has been busy trying to get into Beijing’s good side.

The Wang Chau fiasco showed Leung’s willingness to take responsibility for the government’s missteps.

But at the same time, his decision to slash the housing project to 4,000 units from 17,000 and not build it on a brownfield site occupied by powerful rural landlords highlighted his failure to put the public good over vested interests.

Note how Leung has pivoted to touting his supposed accomplishments in freeing up land supply.

Still, he is no lock for Beijing’s blessing and he has built-in enemies.

James Tien says his Liberal Party will continue its ABC (Anyone by CY) campaign to stop his reelection bid, with support from an estimated 150 committee members.

Increasingly, the buzz is around Financial Secretary John Tsang, whom senior Beijing officials are said to favor over Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who is perceived to be too populist. 

Then there is Jasper Tsang, the past Legco president and leader of the the biggest bloc in the chamber. 

Of course, all of this would be academic if the election committee is rigged in favor of Beijing’s anointed one.

Who knows?

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EJ Insight writer

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