Hong Kong Election Live Updates: Government-Approved Panel Picks John Lee

Credit…Lam Yik/Reuters

John Lee, a former security chief known for his unwavering loyalty to the Chinese government, was chosen as Hong Kong’s next leader on Sunday, through a selection process tightly controlled by Beijing in which he was the only candidate.

Mr Lee, 64, will replace the unpopular Carrie Lam as chief executive, Hong Kong’s highest post. Under Ms. Lam’s watch, fierce pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2019, and China responded with a sweeping national security law that curtailed Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Mr Lee, who served as Hong Kong’s security chief for four years before being appointed Chief Secretary, the No. 2 government post last year, was a key figure in the crackdown on protests in 2019 He then helped the government wield the new security law to decimate political opposition, leaving the most vocal figures behind bars or in exile.

Some 1,424 members of an election committee, all vetted by the Hong Kong government, cast their ballots on Sunday. Mr. Lee had no opponents, and the only choice was to vote for him or not. Only eight people voted against him, according to official results.

Mr Lee waved and bowed to applaud voters after being declared the winner. “The day of the Chief Executive election is important to me,” he said. “But today is also Mother’s Day, Buddha’s birthday and also World Smile Day designated by the Red Cross. Today, therefore, we can all welcome such a historic day with joy. He called his wife, Janet Lam, onstage and presented her with a bouquet of flowers someone else had given her.

Mr Lee, who will be sworn in on July 1, said he intended to push through a package of new laws on treason, secession, sedition and subversion. The laws, known collectively as Article 23 for the section of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that makes them binding, have long been a troublesome issue for Hong Kong’s rulers. The government attempted to enact Section 23 legislation in 2003, but backed down after hundreds of thousands of people came forward.

This time, Mr. Lee will face no such opposition.

The crackdown that followed the 2019 protest movement brought Hong Kong’s once vibrant civil society to heel. News outlets, unions, political parties and human rights groups have shut down under government pressure and national security investigations.

On Sunday, only three demonstrators demonstrated quietly outside the convention center, vastly outnumbered by police, many of whom were filming them.

In January 2021, police arrested dozens of opposition politicians and activists, saying their election strategy constituted a subversive plot. Many of them remain in detention, awaiting trial on national security charges that could lead to life imprisonment. The trial has been delayed for so long that the delays drew criticism last month from a conservative judge who has been handpicked by the government to oversee security trials.

Under Mr Lee’s administration, the crackdown is expected to extend to Hong Kong’s civil service, which has come under increasing criticism from pro-Beijing politicians since some government workers joined the protests. of 2019. Its workers have also been accused by the pro-Beijing camp of resisting efforts to carry out continental-style coronavirus controls, such as expanded lockdowns and mandatory citywide testing.

“We need to ensure that the civil service will faithfully carry out government policies,” said Lau Siu-kai, Beijing’s adviser on Hong Kong policy. “We need to ensure that the civil service discipline system is strict to ensure that civil servants who do not work will be punished or get rid of.”

Tiffany May contributed report.

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