ANNIE LUNDGREN WRITES – The recent pro-democracy uprising in Hong Kong has highlighted Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s growing unpopularity among protesters and their supporters. Since the uprising began in September, the CE has become no fan of electoral reform in Hong Kong.
Currently, chief executive candidates are nominated by a 1,200 person committee of business elites before the public can even vote on them. Activists, who want to open up that process to allow anyone to run for Hong Kong’s highest office, blame Leung for attempting to subdue their demonstration and have condemned him for the police force’s use of tear-gas, pepper spray, and batons against thousands of demonstrators, many of whom were students.
Nicknamed “wolf” and “vampire” by his opponents for his closeness with Beijing’s ruling communist party, Leung became a potent image of the uprising. Many protesters wielded highly uncomplimentary giant-size signs of his face, some with drawn-on fangs and Hitler-esque mustaches, while others pasted his image on the tops of umbrellas.
The chief executive (in effect, the governor of HK) has made frequent television appearances in an effort to tamp down the demonstrations. But his remarks to the media tend to trigger controversy and distrust among the protesters. Recently, citizens protested outside his house, shouting “shame on you” after Leung told the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that the poor should be restricted from voting.
Leung has pointed to “foreign influences” in the media for sparking the pro-democracy activism. Meanwhile, the Chinese state-run media has launched “smear campaigns” against some journalists and even made an issue of the role of the Apple iPhone. In his first interview with European and American journalists since the uprisings began, the CE defended his support for a nominating committee to “screen” candidates before an election because it could forestall the formation of a welfare state and instead create a society that caters to the economic interests of successful business professionals.
With Beijing’s silent support, Leung has refused to resign from executive office in the face of protesters’ demands that he do so. Who’s side is he really on?