THOUSANDS of people rallied in downtown Hong Kong on Friday in support of John Tsang, the popular favourite and the pro-democracy camp’s preferred candidate, ahead of Sunday’s elections.
The crowds gathered at the site of the 2014 Occupy Central movement for universal suffrage, popularly known as the “Umbrella Revolution”, to hear the former financial secretary speak.
Addressing the crowd initially in English, Tsang said Sunday’s election was “an opportunity for us to rebuild trust, to unify our community, and to rekindle hope, especially for the young people,” as reported by Hong Kong Free Press.
“Chief Executive Tsang!”
— Venus Wu (@wu_venus) March 24, 2017
The election for Hong Kong’s new chief executive is considered undemocratic by some as it is not conducted by popular one person-one vote race, instead the three contenders will face off for votes from a 1,194-member election committee heavily weighted with pro-Beijing voters.
This small-circle method has left many Hong Kongers dismayed citizens in the semi-autonomous state have no say in who runs the city.
Stood atop a double decker bus in Edinburgh Square, Tsang addressed these concerns stating: “Many people are complaining they do not have a vote. They say apart from giving a like or a comment (on social media), there’s not much you can do.”
“But still, I want your support … I’m not coming out to be elected by 1,200 electors. The chief executive is the leader of 7.3 million people.”
“Without the approval of the people, what meaning is there?” he said.
Tsang has led opinion polls by a significant margin in the run-up to the election but Beijing-favourite Carrie Lam is still considered the front-runner given the strong establishment-backing she has received from Beijing and members of the election committee.
As well as criticisms over the democratic integrity of the election, another row has been ensuing over a government ban on digital media outlets covering the poll.
On Friday, the Hong Kong High Court ruled journalists from digital media outlets would not be allowed to access and report from this Sunday’s leadership election after it refused to order the government to lift its ban. This will mean reporters are excluded from the press areas and would not be able to interview or film the candidates.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) submitted the request on Thursday along with a judicial review challenge over the government’s treatment of online news media.
Their efforts proved fruitless, however, when the court said the HKJA failed to justify the need for an order telling the government to give access to some online news outlets on the election day.
“In general, the court does not tell the administrative body what to do, or make a decision for it,” Judge Godfrey Lam Wan-ho said.
HKJA’s lawyer, Senior Counsel and University of Hong Kong law professor Johannes Chan argued the bar would “significantly compromise” the work of the reporters.
“There is a strong public interest in covering and reporting on the upcoming election. There is also strong public interest in the diversity of reporting of the events,” Chan said.
Digital media outlets have long been barred from accessing government press releases and press conferences in Hong Kong, and are unable to ask questions of officials.
Last week, a group of 12 media groups and journalist unions appealed to the three chief executive candidates for support in repealing the ban.
Ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing wrote to the Electoral Affairs Commission, asking them to relax access for digital media outlets.
Both Lam and Tsang gave their backing and spoke out against the ban.