HONG KONG – Incoming leader, Leung Chun-Ying, is the son of a policeman who carved out a fortune from real estate before entering politics as a relative outsider.
Born in 1954, Leung is known as a self-made property consultant and, most recently, as the soft-spoken convener of the Executive Council, the city’s top policy-making body.
His family hails from China’s eastern Shandong province but he proudly claims to be born and bred in Hong Kong, the Cantonese-speaking former British colony which was reunited with China in 1997.
Better known by the initials CY, the 57-year-old studied surveying in Hong Kong and real estate management in Britain before returning to his home town in 1977 and joining the local office of global property firm Jones Lang Wootton.
He rose to become one of the most well-known figures in the city’s influential property sector, as Asia-Pacific chairman of real estate advisory firm DTZ Holdings, and today has an array of business directorships.
At just 34 years of age, Leung was named secretary general of the high-powered Basic Law Consultative Committee, tasked with drafting the city’s constitution after its return to Chinese rule.
That appointment led to persistent allegations that he is a secret member of the Chinese Communist Party, a suggestion he repeatedly denied through his election campaign.
Two years after the handover he was appointed as convenor of the Executive Council, a role that saw him advise governments on the big decisions of the day.
He stepped down in September 2011 to run for the post of chief executive against a man most observers saw as a shoo-in for the job, business and government insider Henry Tang.
The son of a Shanghai textile baron, Tang was considered to have the backing of Beijing and the city’s powerful business tycoons, who together dominate the election committee that decides the chief executive election.
But his more confident style and populist proposals — including promises to address corruption, the wealth gap and soaring housing prices — put him well ahead of Tang in terms of popular approval ratings.
He watched calmly as Tang’s campaign imploded in a series of verbal gaffes and personal scandals, which helped to overshadow questions about his own background and alleged conflict of interest in a property deal.
Beijing did not openly switch sides, but when the committee met on Sunday, March 25, it was Leung who won the majority of its 1,200 members.
In a victory speech on Sunday, he promised to reunite Hong Kong after the most divisive election in its history.
“From today onwards, there is no Tang camp or Leung camp, there is only one Hong Kong camp, all Hong Kong people are in this camp. I need the support from everyone to work together,” Leung said.
He also said he would “pave the way for enhanced democracy with an open and fair election system” in 2017, when Beijing has promised all citizens will be entitled to vote for chief executive from a vetted group of candidates.
Leung, who is married with 3 teenage children, says he finds gardening “therapeutic,” loves hiking and football, and swims every night at his private pool.
Leung’s 5-year term starts in July after outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s term expires. – Agence France-Presse