25 Mar 2012

Hong Kong elects new chief executive

7:21 pm on 25 March 2012

A group of electors in Hong Kong have voted in former government advisor and property consultant Chun-ying Leung as the territory's new chief executive.

Most of Hong Kong's 7 million people have no say in who becomes their leader and about 1000 people gathered outside the election venue in protest.

The 1200 electors who are allowed to vote, chose Mr Leung, who is widely seen as Beijing's preferred candidate as Hong Kong's next chief executive.

The electors are mainly loyal to Beijing and have previously rubber stamped the Chinese government's choice of leader.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedom, but Beijing's Communist Party leaders have resisted public pressure for full democracy.

Instead, an election committee filled with business professionals, tycoons and Beijing loyalists, selected Mr Leung with 689 of 1132 votes cast as successor to Donald Tsang, who cannot stand again.

Mr Leung's main rival, Henry Tang, got 285 votes.

Several dozen protesters inside the voting venue erupted in shouted and jeered as the result was announced.

"We want direct elections immediately" they chanted.

Outside, up to 2000 protesters, some who camped out overnight, yelled slogans and waved banners to show their anger at being denied a voice.

Compared with previous chief executive elections, this one was marked by scandal and mud-slinging between the two main candidates and it also brought into the spotlight China's extensive influence over political affairs.

Mr Leung is a self-made Hong Kong-born surveyor with deep China connections and a reputation as a tough political operator. Mr Tang is the affluent scion of an industrialist and a former civil service chief.