John Lee, 64, who has been sanctioned by the United States, is a former head of the Security Office. He was the only candidate in the fight for the next Hong Kong leadership. The current head of Hong Kong, Kerry Lama, a career bureaucrat who took office in 2017, did not apply for the post on family grounds.
Her five years in office have been controversial.
After widespread pro-democracy protests, Beijing tightened its control over Hong Kong, but the restrictions of the pandemic meant Hong Kong’s almost complete international isolation.
Former security officer and Beijing loyalist Lee elected Hong Kong leader
In a secret ballot, Lee was elected with 99% support by a committee loyal to Beijing, consisting of nearly one and a half thousand people. Beijing welcomed the vote, stressing that the unanimous result showed “a high level of recognition in Hong Kong society”. Lee is expected to be officially appointed to the ceremony on July 1, 25 years after Britain handed over its former colony to China.
In his address, the next Hong Kong leader emphasized that he would resist internal and external threats and disruptive actions to protect social stability and sovereignty, development and Hong Kong’s interests.
“We must continue to provide a comprehensive, accurate and rigorous one-state, two-system approach, ensure that Hong Kong is governed by the people of Hong Kong, and ensure a high degree of autonomy to maintain our long-term prosperity and stability,” Lee said.
Victor Gao, a professor at Suzhou University in China and a former employee of China’s foreign service, sees no problem in electing Lee. Gao said stability would be restored with the new leader coming to power in Hong Kong. He noted that even during the British rule, the Hong Kong leader was appointed, not elected, and did not represent the people but the monarch.
“British colonists have ruled Hong Kong for more than 150 years. They never elected a Hong Kong leader. The leader of Hong Kong was always appointed by the monarch. And he did not represent the people of Hong Kong, but the interests of the British monarchs, the imperialists. Can democracy in Hong Kong be expanded and improved? Yes of course. However, no one can use democracy or the rule of law as a shield to promote Hong Kong’s independence or deny China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. “I think the people of Hong Kong will continue to practice capitalism in the Hong Kong style and will be very determined to support the principle of one country, two systems, which will run until 2047,” said Victor Gao.
However, Professor Gao’s remarks are contradicted by other experts, such as the fact that the last leaders appointed during the British rule had much higher public support. Public opinion polls show that Lee supports about 37% of Hong Kong’s population.
Critics point out that Lee’s appointment is seen as another attempt by Beijing to consolidate its power in one of the world’s largest financial centers. There are a number of reasons why Lee’s election does not bode well. One of them is the process itself, which cannot be considered an election.
“What we saw in Hong Kong is a departure from the past, namely that there was a pretense that elections were taking place. It is now an election with a name that we can put in quotes, namely the ‘Chinese-style’ election. The elections in Hong Kong are no different than in the Communist Party, ”said Steve Zhang, a political analyst.
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Joseph Borrell, has also expressed concern about the appointment of Lee as Hong Kong’s leader.
The statement he distributed said that the European Union deplored the violation of the principles of democracy and political pluralism and considered the selection process to be another step towards the abolition of the “one country, two systems” principle.
The Beijing office in Hong Kong responded to the statement by demanding an end to the European Union’s intervention in Hong Kong. Another cause for concern is the past of the new leader.
It was on Lee’s behalf that the security authorities suppressed widespread popular protests in 2019 against Beijing’s efforts to restrict democracy and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
He played a key role in drafting the widely criticized National Security Law. One of the women met on the streets of Hong Kong expressed hope that the brutality of security structures on the streets would not return during the new leader.
“I hope that the police will not use force against citizens, as has been done in the past, during the public movement. But I can’t stop them, “Hong Kong was concerned.
Hong Kong’s new leaders face a number of challenges. One of them is to try to regain the confidence of the international business community, which was damaged during the Covid-19 pandemic due to restrictions. He is expected to adhere to China’s Covid-19 zero policy, which is increasingly being criticized in China itself.
His experience could also be a problem in dealing with a number of issues. Unlike previous Hong Kong leaders, he has extensive experience in security structures, but is inexperienced in economic and social matters. It is therefore assumed that security and order in Hong Kong is paramount for Beijing today and that Beijing’s harsh policy in Hong Kong will continue.
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