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Key figure in crackdown legislation says he’ll run for Hong Kong’s top job: NPR


Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee, right, attends a reception, following the flag-raising ceremony for the Chinese National Day celebration, in Hong Kong on October 1, 2021.

Kin Cheung/AP


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Key figure in crackdown legislation says he’ll run for Hong Kong’s top job: NPR

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee, right, attends a reception, following the flag-raising ceremony for the Chinese National Day celebration, in Hong Kong on October 1, 2021.

Kin Cheung/AP

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, a staunch supporter of a Beijing-backed crackdown on pro-democracy activists, tendered his resignation on Wednesday to pave the way for his run in the city’s next leadership race .

John Lee, who is the city’s chief secretary for administration, has tendered his resignation to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, according to a government statement.

“If my resignation is approved by the central people’s government, I plan to run in the next chief executive election,” Lee told a news conference. “Having been in government for more than 40 years, serving the people of Hong Kong is a glory.”

He said he would detail his “next decision” if the Chinese government approved his resignation.

Security law targeted pro-democracy activists and media

Lee, who is considered Beijing’s favorite candidate for chief executive, is a vocal advocate of the city’s national security law, which has been used since 2020 to target pro-democracy activists, supporters and media. , diminishing the freedoms promised to Hong Kong in Britain’s handover to China in 1997.

His potential Hong Kong leadership could signal a further tightening of Beijing’s grip on the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Lam said Monday she would not seek a second term, after five turbulent years punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a crackdown on political freedoms and Beijing’s growing influence in the territory.

Local media, including the main South China Morning Post newspaper, reported that Lee would be the only candidate to be endorsed by the Chinese government.

Other candidates named by local media as likely suitors include the city’s finance minister, Paul Chan, although he has not yet expressed his intention to run.

Beijing’s likely endorsement of Lee’s candidacy indicates that China seeks loyalty and emphasizes national security for Hong Kong, according to Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer in the Department of Government and Public Administration of China. Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Compared to previous chief executives, Lee is said to have significantly less policy-making experience because he has spent most of his public service career in policing and overseeing security issues, Choy said.

Given this inexperience, Beijing could “play a bigger role” in the city’s local and internal affairs, he said.

The city’s next leader will be chosen on May 8 by an election committee of about 1,500 people, a majority of whom are pro-Beijing.

Hong Kong’s leader is chosen every five years, although the selection process is carefully orchestrated behind the scenes by Beijing.

The four CEOs selected since Hong Kong’s handover to mainland China in 1997 are all candidates considered Beijing’s favorites.

Lee, 64, a former career police officer who rose steadily through the ranks, was appointed Hong Kong’s chief secretary in June and previously served as Lam’s security secretary.

Lee drew sanctions from the United States over the security law

He played a key role in proposing controversial legislation in 2019 that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China. He rejected calls from critics to write safeguards into the bill.

The proposed bill led to massive protests in the city before it was withdrawn, and Lee oversaw a police crackdown on protesters during several months of massive anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

After the protests were snuffed out, Lee lent his support to the sweeping security law, which served as justification for the arrest of more than 150 people. It prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in city affairs.

Lee, Lam and other government officials in Hong Kong and mainland China were sanctioned by the United States in 2020 for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting freedom of speech or assembly”.

Nominations for the leadership race began on Sunday and will run until April 16, with the committee vote scheduled for May 8.

The leadership contest is the first since Hong Kong’s election laws were changed last year to ensure only “patriots” loyal to Beijing can hold office. The changes make it difficult for pro-democracy supporters to run for chief executive.

The new leader takes office on July 1, the day Hong Kong was handed over to China by the British in 1997.

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