John Lee was elected Hong Kong’s next leader on Sunday, after winning over 99% of the vote cast by a largely pro-Beijing electoral committee.
Lee got 1,416 votes in the presidential election, far more than the 751 votes he needed to win and the largest support ever for the city’s top leadership position. The nearly 1,500 members of the election commission cast their votes in secret on Sunday morning.
“I look forward to us all starting a new chapter together and building a Hong Kong that is caring, open and vibrant, and a Hong Kong full of opportunity and harmony,” Lee said in his victory speech.
Lee will replace current leader Carrie Lam on July 1.
As the sole candidate in the polls, Lee was widely expected to win, especially as he had Beijing’s backing and received 786 nominations last month from election committee members in support of his candidacy.
Lam congratulated Lee in a statement and said she would present the election results to Beijing.
“The current administration and I will ensure a seamless transition with the elected Chief Executive. We will provide all the support necessary for the assumption of office by the new term of office,” Lam’s statement said.
The elections followed major changes in Hong Kong’s electoral laws last year to ensure that only ‘patriots’ loyal to Beijing can hold office. The legislature was also reorganized to nearly eliminate opposition votes.
The elaborate arrangements surrounding the predetermined outcome speak to Beijing’s desire for a veneer of democracy. Although they voted in a secret ballot, Hong Kong voters were all carefully vetted.
The Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong also congratulated Lee in a statement, saying the election was conducted in a “fair, just and orderly manner in accordance with laws and regulations.”
“Lee received many nominations and was elected with a high number of 1,416 votes. This is not only the solemn choice of the Election Commission, but also a strong expression of public opinion,” the statement said.
China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council also congratulated Lee in a statement, saying the “successful elections” proved the city’s new electoral system is “good” and in line with the “one country, two systems.” framework that Hong Kong is governed by.
The statement added that the new chief executive will lead the Hong Kong government and “people from all walks of life to move forward in unity”.
The British handed over Hong Kong to mainland China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” framework, which promised the city certain freedoms not found on the mainland, including freedom of expression and assembly.
Critics say these freedoms are being eroded as Beijing has exercised more control over the former British colony in recent years.
On Sunday morning, three members of the League of Social Democrats, a local activist group, protested the election by attempting to march to the election site while displaying a banner demanding universal suffrage that would enable Hong Kongers both for the legislature. as to vote for the head. managerial.
“Human rights over power, the people are greater than the land,” the banner read. “One person, one vote for the CEO. Immediately implement double universal suffrage.”
A protester handed out flyers before police arrived and sealed off the protesters and the banner. Police also searched the protesters’ belongings and noted their personal details, but no arrests were immediately made.
The pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong has long demanded universal suffrage, which they say has been promised to the city in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law. It was also a key demand in the protests of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and the anti-government demonstrations of 2019.
Lee’s role as Hong Kong’s next leader has raised concerns that Beijing could further tighten its hold on Hong Kong. He has spent most of his civil service career in the police and security bureau, and is an outspoken and staunch supporter of a 2020 national security law imposed on Hong Kong aimed at eradicating dissent.
His rise stemmed from massive anti-government protests in 2019 that culminated in violent clashes. As security secretary, he oversaw the police campaign to confront protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, later arresting many of them for arrest.
More than 150 people have been arrested under the security law, which prohibits secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign troops to intervene in the city’s affairs. Nearly all prominent pro-democracy activists have been jailed, while others have fled abroad or have been intimidated into silence.
Thousands of residents have left the city of 7.4 million people during the 2019 protests and subsequent severe pandemic restrictions, many of them professionals and expats.
In his election campaign in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s polls, Lee pledged to enact long-delayed local legislation to protect against security threats and vowed to increase housing supply in the world’s most expensive real estate market.
He also said he would improve the city’s competitiveness and lay a firm foundation for Hong Kong’s development.