The vote for Hong Kong’s new leader kicks off this week, but most of its 3.8 million-strong electorate will have no say in choosing the winner, prompting calls for an overhaul of a system skewed towards Beijing. It is the first leadership vote since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 failed to win political reform and comes as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong. As the first round of voting begins, the four candidates are wooing the public — dropping in to no-frills cafes to eat local dishes with ordinary folk. But to little avail. The winner will be chosen by a committee of 1,200 representatives of special interest groups, weighted towards Beijing. According to a count by local media, only around a quarter are in the pro-democracy camp.
The representatives are selected by a pool of around 230,000 voters from sectors ranging from business to education, and include the city’s 70 lawmakers.
Democracy campaigners and some residents say it is inevitable the winner will answer to Chinese authorities — activists already vilify current leader Leung Chun-ying as a puppet of Beijing.
“The members of the electoral committee are only looking out for their own interests, how can they represent the Hong Kong people?” says engineer Stone Shek, 49.