John Lee, a pro-Beijing loyalist and the sole candidate for Hong Kong’s top office, has been elected Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Beijing loyalist John Lee has been elected Hong Kong’s next CEO.
Lee, the sole candidate for Hong Kong’s highest office, won over 1,416 votes at Sunday’s election.
About 1,500 members of a largely pro-Beijing election committee cast their votes to elect the new leader. Lee only needed a simple majority to win.
Lee, 64, who previously served as Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary, will begin his five-year term on July 1, replacing outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 after the UK handed over the former colony to Beijing. It is governed under a “one country, two systems” framework, with limited electoral rights and a largely separate legal and economic system.
Hong Kong’s electoral system underwent a major overhaul last year after Beijing said only so-called “patriots” could rule the city.
At a press conference after his election, Lee was asked whether his performance “will be in trouble due to the lack of electoral mandate and legitimacy in the eyes of some people”.
His response was that his election was “in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong”.
“Anyone qualified under the law can participate and run for election,” he added.
Lee pointed out that he got more than 1,400 votes, saying: “With that number of support, it naturally encourages me and gives me strong confidence that my direction is agreed upon and shared by many members of the Election Commission.”
John Lee, a Beijing loyalist, has been chosen to become the city’s next chief executive.
Bloomberg | Getty Images
In a note last week, analysts from Eurasia Group weighed in on Beijing’s pick of Lee as the next leader in Hong Kong.
The selection of Lee, a professional police officer who played a leading role in crushing the pro-democracy protests that began in 2019, indicates that Beijing’s top priority for Hong Kong is to maintain political security rather than preserving its role as a dynamic global hub,” they said.
“Lee’s appointment will enhance Hong Kong’s shift from a global financial and business center to a lesser role as a capital gateway for China,” Eurasia analysts said. “While risks to political and financial stability are modest, the Lee administration may be ill-equipped to respond to a major shock.”
In line with China’s Covid-19 policy, Hong Kong has a so-called “dynamic zero” strategy for the virus and imposed strict measures in January in an effort to smooth the spread† The city further tightened restrictions in February as new cases raged, but began easing slightly in late April.
The elections were previously postponed due to an increase in Covid cases in the Asian financial center.
During the press conference, Lee was also asked how he intends to show the international community that Hong Kong is open for business.
“Yes, we now have challenges due to the need to control Covid-19 and some measures are indeed causing inconvenience,” he acknowledged.
“I make a very clear point that I am very aware of the need to be accessible to the world. And it is also important for Hong Kong to be able to resume normal mainland travel.”
He said he will talk to his colleagues in Beijing “to find out what the conditions are needed to resume normal mainland travel.”
Lee also called on citizens to follow the government’s advice and measures, saying the city will try to increase vaccination rates. According to government statisticsAs of Saturday, more than 91% of the population over the age of 12 has received their first vaccine dose and 85.2% their second dose.
The outgoing CEO of Hong Kong Lam congratulated Lee on Sunday†
“I sincerely congratulate Mr John Lee on his successful election,” she said in a press release. “The current administration and I will ensure a seamless transition with the elected Chief Executive. We will provide all the support necessary for taking office by the new term of office.”