Ex-security chief John Lee anointed Hong Kong’s subsequent chief

A former safety chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy motion was anointed the enterprise hub’s new chief on Sunday by a small committee of Beijing loyalists.

John Lee, 64, was the one candidate within the Beijing-backed race to succeed outgoing chief Carrie Lam.

The elevation of Lee, who’s beneath US sanctions, locations a safety official within the prime job for the primary time after a tumultuous few years for a metropolis battered by political unrest and debilitating pandemic controls. 

Despite town’s mini-constitution promising common suffrage, Hong Kong has by no means been a democracy, the supply of years of public frustration and protests for the reason that 1997 handover to China. 

Its chief is as a substitute chosen by an “election committee” at the moment comprised of 1,461 folks – roughly 0.02 p.c of town’s inhabitants.

After a short secret poll on Sunday, 99 p.c of those that solid ballots (1,416 members) voted for Lee whereas solely eight voted towards, in response to officers.

Political pluralism

Beijing hailed the near-unanimous consequence, saying it confirmed “Hong Kong society has a high level of recognition and approval” for Lee. 

“This is a real demonstration of democratic spirit,” the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office stated. 

European Union’s overseas coverage chief Josep Borrell countered that the choice course of was a “violation of democratic principles and political pluralism”. 

Borrell described Sunday’s consequence as “yet another step in the dismantling of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle” the place Beijing promised Hong Kong might keep key freedoms and autonomy. 

Under President Xi Jinping, China is remoulding Hong Kong in its personal authoritarian picture after enormous and generally violent democracy protests three years in the past.

Beijing deployed a sweeping nationwide safety legislation to stamp out dissent and rolled out a brand new “patriots only” political vetting system to ensure anybody standing for workplace is taken into account suitably loyal.

Protests have been largely outlawed, with authorities imposing an anti-coronavirus ban on public gatherings of greater than 4 folks in addition to the safety legislation.

The League of Social Democrats – one of many solely remaining pro-democracy teams – held a three-person protest earlier than polls opened Sunday, chanting “Power to the people, universal suffrage now”.

“We know this action will have no effect, but we don’t want Hong Kong to be completely silent,” protester Vanessa Chan stated as dozens of law enforcement officials regarded on.

A troubled metropolis

While the democracy motion has been crushed, a lot of the inhabitants nonetheless resents Beijing’s rule and chafes on the metropolis’s entrenched inequality. 

Hong Kong additionally faces financial difficulties thanks to 2 years of strict pandemic curbs which have broken its enterprise hub repute and left residents lower off as rivals re-open.

Lee was requested by reporters on Sunday whether or not he lacked a real mandate.

“I do understand there will be time that is needed for me to convince the people,” he replied. 

“But I can do that by action.”

He stated he deliberate to construct a Hong Kong that’s “full of hope, opportunities and harmony” now that authorities had “restored order from chaos”.

So far, his marketing campaign has been gentle on concrete coverage particulars – specifically how he plans to reopen Hong Kong to each worldwide and mainland journey at a time when China is doubling down on its strict zero-Covid technique.

‘Empty gesture’

Hong Kong’s chief executives discover themselves caught between the democratic aspirations of town’s residents and the authoritarian calls for of Beijing’s leaders. 

Outgoing chief Carrie Lam is on observe to depart workplace with record-low approval rankings. 

According to a survey in March by the Public Opinion Research Institute, about 24 p.c of the general public has confidence in Lee, in contrast with 12 p.c for Lam.

Waiting in a line outdoors a restaurant on Sunday, 25-year-old resident Alex Tam stated he and his pals had been paying little consideration to proceedings. 

“It’s just an empty gesture,” he advised AFP. 

“If he didn’t listen to the protesters, I don’t see how he would listen to young people now, especially those who criticise the government.” 

Retired businessman Yeung Wing-shun was extra optimistic, saying he hoped Lee would information Hong Kong with a “firm hand”, including that he believed the brand new chief might deliver totally different sectors collectively.

Lee will take workplace on July 1, the twenty fifth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain and the midway level of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Beijing and Lee say that formulation remains to be intact. 

Critics, together with many Western powers, say it has been shredded.

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