Ever since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced last week that he would not be seeking a second-term, there has been a sudden stampede among CE hopefuls to either declare their candidacy or re-express interest in joining the race.
First, it was Financial Secretary John Tsang who tendered his resignation in order to focus on organizing his campaign.
Then there was his superior, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who said she is reconsidering her bid because “events have taken a drastic turn”.
And lawmaker and former security chief Regina Ip announced her candidacy and election platform on Thursday.
In the meantime, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who was the first to declare his candidacy for the 2017 election, unveiled his official election platform last week, in which he laid down in detail his policy visions for Hong Kong.
In particular, he put emphasis on political reform and housing, which he said are the most urgent issues confronting the next government.
Even though Woo is considered a long shot, we believe his election platform deserves public attention and media scrutiny since it may serve as a reference for the Election Committee members, other CE hopefuls, or even Beijing as to what the policy agenda of the next CE should look like.
According to Woo, resolving the current deep social divisions and polarization in Hong Kong resulting from the abortive political reform is undoubtedly the most urgent task facing the next government.
He said the issue must be resolved within the next 5 years or else a highly polarized social environment will simply render any attempt to revitalize our economy impossible.
That said, Woo pledged that he will immediately relaunch political reform consultations once he is elected, and his goal is to achieve universal suffrage for both the Legco and CE elections in 15 years.
By doing, so he hoped the divisions and polarization in society can be resolved permanently, thereby allowing Hong Kong to go back on the right track and move on.
In order to achieve the ultimate goal of universal suffrage, Woo suggested that the voter base of the existing Election Committee and functional constituencies of Legco be expanded in stages — from the current 250,000 to one million and then ultimately three million, which is roughly the same size as the voter population, thereby creating our own version of the US Electoral College system.
He believes his plan is likely to get the green light from Beijing and a two-thirds vote from Legco as long as it is favored by the majority of the public.
As far as housing is concerned, Woo vowed to loosen regulations on the “small house policy” in the New Territories, so that these small houses can go higher than three stories.
He also proposed to designate some land plots as “land for first-time homebuyers only”, on which the government and private developers can build new homes available only to local first-time homebuyers.
He added that these new flats should be declared off-limits to renters, and owners of these flats can only sell the property to other first-time homebuyers in the future, thereby eliminating all investors and speculators from this particular market.
Some critics have pointed out that the main reason Leung Chun-ying’s so-called “Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people” policy has failed is that he did not outlaw the sale of flats built on such land to investors or speculators.
As a result, the new homes built in Kai Tak, where the first piece of “Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people” is located, have turned out to be just as expensive and unaffordable as luxury homes.
Woo hit the nail on the head because as he put it, no matter who is elected as the next CE, the degree to which he or she can resolve the political reform and housing issues will determine whether he or she is going to be a successful leader.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 15
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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