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Developers show extent of influence

South China Morning Post – Dec. 13, 2011

More than 70 seats on the Election Committee were won by candidates holding key positions in the city’s dominant businesses, mainly property, a result critics said illustrated the extent of the sector’s influence over the chief executive election.

But while the hand of business in politics was too significant to ignore, it did not amount to a monopoly, one political analyst said.

Business figures won 73 seats – with 49 contested and 24 uncontested. The seats were spread across the commercial, tourism, transport, hotel and engineering subsectors.

Research by The Professional Commons, a pan democrat think tank, released ahead of Sunday’s election showed 85 candidates held senior positions – such as executive directorships – in major enterprises and subsidiaries.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (SEHK: 0016) was at the top of the list, winning 12 seats after fielding 15 candidates. All nine candidates from The Wharf (Holdings) (SEHK: 0004) won, while Henderson Land Development (SEHK: 0012), Great Eagle (SEHK: 0041), Cheung Kong-Hutchison (SEHK: 0013), Jardines and Swire won five to six seats.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, convenor of the think tank’s research committee, said the results showed developers had extended their influence beyond the original design of the electoral system.

“Developers were supposed to represent the interests of their own subsectors, but subsidiaries also won seats in other subsectors, which has strengthened their influence in deciding the next chief executive,” he said.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political analyst at Chinese University, said the sector’s influence was too obvious to ignore.

“Of course it has a significant impact [on the election], but it’s not as big as a monopoly,” Choy said. Other subsectors, like agriculture and fisheries, were seen by Beijing as much more secure bastions of votes.

Three supporters of sustainable development who ran as independents failed in their effort to break the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s dominance in the commercial (first) subsector.

The chamber’s 18 candidates for the 18 seats were returned with vote tallies ranging from 183 to 338.

Markus Shaw, president of WWF Hong Kong, won 166; Dr George Cautherley, a vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation, secured 126; and Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, a former investment banker, 147.

“We were obviously disappointed,” Wong said. “But given the chamber’s iron-clad votes, a significant voice was heard echoing to show where we stand and the message we send.”

Cheung Kong (Holdings) (SEHK: 0001) and Sun Hung Kai got more than 130 votes – out of 860 in the commercial (first) subsector – through their subsidiaries. Election Affairs Commission Justice Barnabas Fung Wah said last week the subsidiaries had registered in accordance with the rules.

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