Hong Kong: Former security chief John Lee appointed as new chief | News | DW

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Hong Kong elected a new leader, John Lee, on Sunday.

Lee, 64, is set to replace the next managing director of Carrie Lamas Hong Kong on July 1.

Lee was the former chief secretary of Hong Kong before announcing his candidacy to become the chief executive of the Chinese special administrative region.

Lee was the only candidate in the running, and the committee that voted for him was elected by pro-Beijing figures from Hong Kong’s establishment circle in September last year.

A former deputy police commissioner until his promotion to chief secretary in 2021, Lee has earned a reputation for strict enforcement of law and order.

Lee’s image is that of a “tough guy and law enforcement official who wouldn’t like to listen to other people’s opinions, be accommodating or be measured”, political scientist Kenneth Chan recently said. at Hong Kong Baptist University, DW.

But critics of Lee have pointed to his role in the government’s sweeping crackdown on protesters during the 2019 pro-democracy movement.

Lee, as head of security at the time, oversaw thousands of arrests. At the time, the police were also criticized for using excessive force.

Pro-Beijing committee elects John Lee

Despite the city’s mini-constitution promising universal suffrage, Hong Kong has never been a democracy, the source of years of frustration and public protests since handover to China in 1997.

Its leader is instead chosen by an “electoral committee” currently made up of 1,461 people, or about 0.02% of the city’s population.

Of the 1,461 people on the Hong Kong election committee, 1,416 members voted for Lee, while eight others voted against him. The others did not vote.

“I declare that the only candidate, Mr. John Lee Ka-chiu, is re-elected in the aforementioned election, congratulations,” said returning officer Judge Keith Yeung Kar-hung.

The members of Hong Kong’s election committee were chosen in September 2021 in a process closely monitored by Beijing.

Hong Kong’s process to nominate Lee as its new leader violated democratic standards, according to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“The European Union regrets this violation of democratic principles and political pluralism and considers this selection process as a further step in dismantling the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” he said in a statement.

Strong security around the polling center, few opportunities for protest

Local media reported a heavy police presence at the polling station at an exhibition center in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district.

Media also reported that around 6,000 to 7,000 officers were on standby.

The League of Social Democrats, a local activist group, also staged a three-person protest before the polls opened.

The Associated Press reported that police searched their belongings and noted their personal information on the site. They didn’t stop them.

Hong Kong has imposed some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the world, with a ban on public gatherings of more than four people currently in place.

Lee’s radical approach raises concerns

Even though Beijing has made it a priority to ensure order in the city after years of unrest, experts fear Lee could use the controversial national security law to further crack down on protesters and the media.

That’s because Lee has pledged to uphold a constitutional responsibility to enforce a new set of regulations to prohibit acts deemed hostile to China.

Over the past two years, dozens of pro-democracy news outlets have been forced to close following the arrest of employees.

Beijing imposed the National Security Law in 2020 which effectively gave it the power to punish protesters for life.

rm/text (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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