Hong Kong election live updates: John Lee wins one man race

Credits…Lam Yik / Reuters

John Lee, a former security chief known for his staunch loyalty to the Chinese government, was chosen to be 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 unpopular Carrie Lam as chief executive, Hong Kong’s top job. Under Ms Lam’s watch, fierce pro-democracy protests shook the city in 2019, China responded with a sweeping national security law restricting Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Mr. Lee, who served as Hong Kong’s chief of security for four years before being appointed last year as first secretary. Number two in the government, he was a key figure in the suppression of protests in 2019. He then helped the government implement the new security law to destroy political opposition, leaving the most outspoken figures behind bars or in exile.

An electoral commission of 1,500 Hong Kong residents cast their ballots in the chief executive’s election on Sunday. Most of them have already declared their support for Mr. Lee, who has no opponents. He will be sworn in on July 1.

Police officers filled the streets around the convention center next to Victoria Harbor where voting was taking place. Three protesters marched nearby with a banner calling for direct elections – a far cry from the massive demonstrations of a few years ago.

one clear sign of mr. Lee’s intentions: his stated plan to advance a package of new laws on treason, secession, sedition, and subversion. The laws, known collectively as Article 23 of the part of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that provides for them, have long been a vexing issue for Hong Kong’s leaders. The government attempted to enact Article 23 legislation in 2003, but backed down after hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated.

This time, mr. Lee would not face such opposition.

The crackdown that followed the 2019 protest movement has dented Hong Kong’s once-vibrant civil society. News outlets, unions, political parties, and human rights groups have been closed down under pressure from the government and national security investigations.

In January 2021, police arrested dozens of opposition politicians and activists, saying their electoral strategy amounted to a subversive plot. Many of them remain in pre-trial detention on national security charges that can lead to life imprisonment. The trial was delayed so long that the delays drew criticism last month from a conservative judge chosen by the government to oversee the security trials.

under mr. Lee’s administration, the crackdown is expected to extend across Hong Kong’s civil service, which has come under increasing criticism from pro-Beijing politicians since some government employees joined in the 2019 protests. Its workers have also been blamed by the pro-Beijing camp for resisting efforts to implement virus controls. Corona is similar to the mainland, such as massive lockdowns and mandatory citywide testing.

“We need to make sure that the civil service will faithfully implement the government’s policies,” said Lao Siu Kai, Beijing’s advisor on Hong Kong policy. “We need to make sure that the civil service discipline system is rigorous to make sure that those civil servants who will not perform their work will be punished or removed.”

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