On 26 March, Ms Carrie Lam, a pro-Beijing candidate, was easily appointed as Hong Kong’s new CEO after obtaining 777 votes from a 1,194-member election committee. She is the first woman to head the island and will succeed to the unpopular Mr Leung when taking office next July. Pro-democracy forces and a majority of Hong Kong’s population supported the defeated Mr Tsang. A few days after her appointment, several leaders of the ‘Occupy Movement’ were charged for their actions during protests in 2014.  

Impact on country risk

Since mass protests broke out in 2014 on the back of popular defiance against Beijing’s strong influence and the institutional framework preventing the universal suffrage, this election process and choice confirms that Beijing maintains political control and power in its special administrative region of Hong Kong. By appointing a pro-Beijing candidate with a business stance, it aims to strengthen Beijing’s authority on the island against the rising demand of more autonomy from a rising share of the population. Hence, Beijing’s increased interventionism is likely to continue whereas Ms Lam, given her lower popularity, has a great chance of facing political obstruction and future protests during her five-year mandate on the back of missing democratic legitimacy. Ms Lam has indeed already announced that social issues – especially housing and education – should prevail over political reforms which, under Beijing’s fiat, she considers to be a less pressing issue. Under Beijing’s pressure, she is also expected to deepen economic integration with mainland China, a prospect opposed by many on the island and which could therefore harm Ms Lam’s mandate.

Analyst: Raphaël Cecchi, r.cecchi@credendo.com