CY Leung, Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular leader, won’t seek another term

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Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying announced today he won’t seek a second term, saying he would like to spare his family from the public pressure that comes during campaigns.

“I had to make a responsible choice between the responsibility for the society and that for my family,” he said at a press conference. “If I run for the upcoming CE term, I am afraid that in the coming few months my family will, as a result of my election campaigns, suffer from some pressure that they cannot bear. In this regard, I must protect them.”

Leung’s family has often been in the spotlight for their outlandish or unusual behavior. His daughter bragged on Facebook that her luxury purchases were funded by Hong Kong taxpayers, and their family arguments were widely covered in the local press.

His departure is likely to be cheered by some Hong Kongers. During the Umbrella Movement in 2014, protesters occupied the city’s main highway to protest against China’s restrictions on electoral reform. Some demonstrators even told Leung to “burn in hell.” Opponents meanwhile launched the “ABC campaign”—“Anyone but CY”— this summer to contest his possible re-election (something they now won’t have to worry about).

Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected not by regular citizens, but by a 1,200-member election committee that’s heavily weighted toward business interests and chooses between two finalists. Leung won by so few votes in 2012 that his total, 689, became another derogatory nickname. A recent survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong shows Leung has a disapproval rate of 61% and a popularity rating of just 40.7 out of 100, the lowest among the three CEs who have helmed the city.

During his term, there has been a drastic escalation of Hong Kong-China conflicts. Demonstrations against mainland Chinese visitors have gone up, and Hong Kongers have increasingly emphasized the ways in which they differ from mainlanders. “Localists” have been elected to the city’s legislature, and some groups have called for Hong Kong’s independence from China. As a result, Leung is sometimes sarcastically called the “father of Hong Kong independence,” and he’s inspired a fair amount of creative mockery in the city.

Leung denied that Beijing is dissatisfied with his performance, and added, “The central government has always supported my work.”

He will continue to serve as the city’s highest official until July 1 next year, when the next CE takes office.