As Hong Kong Chooses Its Next Leader, China Still Pulls the Strings

Since the 2014 protests, China has tightened its grip over Hong Kong. In an extraordinary move in November, Beijing intervened in a Hong Kong court case to block the seating of two politicians in the legislature after they pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” during their swearing-in ceremony and inserted an anti-China snub into their oaths of office.

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Pro-democracy activists are lamenting Beijing’s apparent snub of John Tsang, center, a rare pro-establishment figure who has the blessing of pro-democracy parties as well as much of the public.

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Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Then, in January, a Chinese-born billionaire was taken from his apartment at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong and spirited into police custody in mainland China, even though mainland law enforcement officials are barred from operating across the border. The case brought to mind the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers last year, with both incidents raising fears about the erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Even as pro-democracy activists dismiss Sunday’s selection process as rigged, they are lamenting Beijing’s apparent snub of John Tsang, one of three candidates in Sunday’s voting. A former financial secretary bearing the nickname Mr. Pringles for his resemblance to the brand’s cartoon mascot, Mr. Tsang is a rare pro-establishment figure who has both the blessing of pro-democracy parties and a good chunk of the general population, as major opinion polls suggest.

Despite these qualities, Chinese leaders have reportedly expressed their support for Carrie Lam, a former No. 2 official in Hong Kong’s government who tried and failed to push through the proposal for direct elections that was championed by Beijing.

Ms. Lam is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party “but more skillful”…

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