September 28, 2007


Democracy Debate Transforms Hong Kong Election Contest (JONATHAN CHENG, September 28, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

A by-election for a Hong Kong legislative seat is turning into a face-off between two well-known former government officials who represent different approaches toward shaping this former British colony's political future.

In 2003, Regina Ip's unflinching support for an antitreason law as secretary for security made her a symbol of fears that China would curtail Hong Kong's political freedom. Yesterday, she announced plans to contest a vacant legislative seat -- and work with Beijing to bring democratic ideals to Hong Kong.

"Democracy is the only way forward for Hong Kong," Mrs. Ip said.

That pits Mrs. Ip, 57 years old, against her former boss, Anson Chan, once Hong Kong's second-ranking official and one of the city's more popular political figures. In recent months, she, too, has been burnishing her credentials as a champion of democracy. Mrs. Chan, 67, announced her candidacy for the vacant seat earlier this month, vowing to put pressure on the government to introduce direct elections by 2012.

While the two candidates seem to espouse the same goals, their approaches differ sharply. Mrs. Ip, running as the establishment candidate, boasts support from the two major Beijing- and business-backed political parties, the chairmen of which flanked her as she announced her entry into elected politics. Her track record supporting Beijing's policies in Hong Kong is expected to make her a more acceptable candidate to China.

Mrs. Chan has taken a more confrontational approach and courted the support of pro-democracy politicians who have openly criticized Beijing's policies and its influence over Hong Kong affairs, although she promises to act as a "bridge" to China. She is predicted to win a primary election set up by the pro-democratic camp that would then make her its approved candidate.

The contest is a new twist in the long-running battle over the lack of full direct elections in Hong Kong, which has separate political, legal and financial systems from the rest of China.

What matters is that they have to espouse the same goals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 28, 2007 12:01 AM
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