John Lee, a former security chief known for his staunch loyalty to the Chinese government, was chosen to be Hong Kong’s next leader on Sunday, through a selection process tightly controlled by Beijing in which he was the only candidate.
Mr. Lee, 64, will replace the unpopular Carrie Lam as chief executive, Hong Kong’s highest position. Under Ms Lam’s direction, fierce pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2019, and China responded with a sweeping national security law restricting Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Mr. Lee, who served as Hong Kong’s chief of security for four years before being appointed last year as first secretary, the government’s second position, was a key figure in suppressing protests in 2019. He then helped the government exercise a new security law to stamp out dissent political, leaving the most outspoken figures behind bars or in exile.
About 1,424 members of the electoral commission, all of whom have been vetted by the Hong Kong government, cast their ballots on Sunday. Mister Li had no opponents, and the only choice was to vote for him or not. According to the official results, only eight people voted against him.
Mr. Lee waved and bowed to greet the voters after his victory was announced. “The CEO election day is important to me,” he said. “But today is also Mother’s Day, Buddha’s birthday and also World Smile Day as designated by the Red Cross. So today we can very happily welcome this historic day.” He called his wife Janet Lamm to the stage and presented her with a bouquet of flowers that someone else had given her.
Mr. Lee, who will be sworn in on July 1, said he intends to push through a package of new laws on treason, secession, sedition and subversion. The laws, known collectively as Article 23 of the part of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that provides for them, have long been a vexing issue for Hong Kong’s leaders. The government attempted to enact Article 23 legislation in 2003, but backed down after hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated.
This time, Mister Li would not face such opposition.
The crackdown that followed the 2019 protest movement brought about Hong Kong’s vibrant civil society to heel. News outlets, unions, political parties, and human rights groups have been closed down under pressure from the government and national security investigations.
Only three protesters protested quietly outside the convention center on Sunday, outnumbered by police officers, many of whom were filming.
In January 2021, police arrested dozens of opposition politicians and activists, saying their electoral strategy amounted to a subversive plot. Many remain in detention awaiting trial on national security charges that could lead to life imprisonment. The trial was delayed so long that the delays drew criticism last month from a conservative judge chosen by the government to oversee the security trials.
Under Mr Lee’s administration, the crackdown is expected to extend across Hong Kong’s civil service, which has come under increasing criticism from pro-Beijing politicians since some government employees joined in the 2019 protests. Its workers have also been blamed by the pro-Beijing camp for resisting efforts To implement mainland-style coronavirus controls, such as massive lockdowns and mandatory citywide testing.
“We need to make sure that the civil service will faithfully implement the government’s policies,” said Lao Siu Kai, Beijing’s advisor on Hong Kong policy. “We need to make sure that the civil service discipline system is rigorous to make sure that those civil servants who will not perform their work will be punished or removed.”
Tiffany May Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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