Analysis of CE election by PR perspective

Yuen Kin-kwok - Public Affairs Consultant

[中文] [Jul 2012 - The Journalist] The Journalist invited me to write an article about the PR strategies of Chief Executive election candidates Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang; why Leung won and Tang lost.

To win the CE election, good PR strategy matters, Beijing and Liaison Office also plays an important role, but in my opinion, the determining factors were their respective campaigns and the performance of candidates.

Tang and Leung built unauthorised underground structures. The basement of the “Tang Palace” and the “Leung House” is more than 2,000 square feet and some 200 square feet respectively. Tang tried to dodge and hide, saying: “The basement was dug up a bit deep”, “It was a storeroom” and “It happened during a difficult time in Tang’s marriage.”

Winner Leung Chun-ying has been accused of a conflict
of interest involving the West Kowloon Cultural District project.
(Photograph Courtesy of Ming Pao)
Finally he got so deeply submerged in the muck that he could not pull himself out and his election campaign subsequently collapsed.

On the other hand, when the media revealed that Leung’s garage had been converted into a restroom for G4, he immediately invited reporters to visit his home. Leung’s PR is totally different from Tang’s.

Tang lost because the “Tang Palace Scandal” was a total fiasco while Leung won because his election campaign was brilliant. Good PR strategy was a bonus.

The CE election result is determined by the Election Committee members. The winner only needs to get 601 votes. It has not been changed since Tung Chee-wah was elected as the first CE. Tang, of course, hoped to in Tung's steps.

Leung acknowledged that this system was unfavourable to him, so he tried to play the game differently. He positioned himself as a candidate running for an election based on universal suffrage. As Leung was more popular than Tang who was entangled by scandals, Beijing would believe that even if Tang was selected, he could not effectively rule Hong Kong because of his low standing.

Donald Tsang is an example. The media reported that he was fabulously treated by the tycoons, flew about in their private jets, travelled in their expensive yachts and enjoyed their limousine services; he hardly had any time to run Hong Kong in his final days in office. In order to avoid the same mistake, Beijing would prefer the more popular candidate, Leung Chun-ying.

Moreover, the CE election is not the business of 800 or 1200 election committee members, but is a matter for Beijing. Tang believed he could win by gathering the support of a majority of the committee, including the key tycoons who did not even remember his ID card number. Tang’s supporters blamed his loss on his late campaign start. It is just an excuse.

How to explain why Leung was so much more popular than Tang? The answer is that Tang’s extra-marital affairs crippled him. The “Tang Palace fiasco” was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I believe Ho Hei-wah was the key person in Leung’s campaign. Because of him and the Society for Community Organisations (SOCO) support, Leung could visit poor communities easily and smoothly, and gained grassroots support rapidly. Tang had no such advantage. He tried to do the same thing but as a pampered son of a wealthy family, his awkward performance betrayed him.

Another grassroots organisation, the Federation of Trade Unions, also supported and defended Leung. So the focus of election shifted from a small circle of pro-Beijing elite to grassroots, FTU’s support could alter Beijing’s preference which in turn affect the position of election committee members.

Most people wondered whether Leung is a Communist Party member. I cannot find any evidence, but I talked to many core supporters from Leung's camp,. The way they trust Leung is similar to the way people trusted the Communist Party ages ago. I do not want to imply that Leung is a party member. What I mean is that Leung is highly charismatic as far as his supporters are concerned.

What exactly is this charisma? I have no idea, but I am sure it is what Tang doesn’t possess.

Finally, I would like to apologise to Albert Ho Chun-yan because of not mentioning him in this article although he was also a candidate. Ho should understand that he was not an important player, because he didn’t belong to this stage.