Hong Kong’s next leader: Beijing favorite and ex-security chief John Lee

john lee hong kong

Sunday marked Beijing loyalist and former security chief John Lee’s election victory for Hong Kong chief executive.

An overwhelming majority — 97 percent — of Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing Election Committee of 1,461 members voted Lee in as the next leader for the city’s 7.5 million residents in an election with no other serious candidates.

Current leader Carrie Lam, who has held the role since 2017, announced earlier last month that she would be stepping down, citing her family as the main reason. 

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Lee, 64, subsequently resigned from his post as chief secretary, Hong Kong’s second highest post, and stated his intention to run in the upcoming chief executive election.

With no prior experience in policy making in areas such as economy, finance, education or healthcare, Lee only became the obvious choice when he became the sole Beijing-approved candidate to run, all but guaranteeing his win.

“Choosing Lee as chief executive shows Beijing doesn’t mind picking a completely incapable person to do nothing but carry out its will,” said Chung Kim-wah, former deputy head of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.

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Since being returned to China by the United Kingdom in 1997, the territory has consistently clashed with Beijing over issues of autonomy and independence.

Despite the “one country, two systems” policy promised to the territory, Beijing appears to be strengthening its control and influence over the city.

Mass protests erupted in 2019 over a new amendment, which has since been withdrawn, that would have allowed extradition of fugitives to mainland China, with over a million people flooding the streets of Hong Kong to fight the proposal.

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Lee, then secretary of security, became known around the world for his crackdowns on pro-democracy and anti-government protestors and journalists.

He remains unpopular with the U.S., who sanctioned the territory as a result of Lee’s role in violently suppressing the protests. The U.S. has also been openly vocal about the Hong Kong government’s arrests of journalists and news staff. 

Lee appears to remain unfazed, already indicating that he will expand national security legislations under his rule. 

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The executive chief-elect will assume office on July 1, the first day of his five-year term. 

Featured Image via Bloomberg Quicktake: Now

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