John Lee, chief executive of Hong Kong, ushers in a new era of restrictions

John Lee is the new chief executive of Hong Kong. The 64-year-old spearheaded the only approved campaign to succeed Carrie Lam, the beleaguered Chinese landlord who oversaw a dramatic breakdown of democratic institutions during the pro-democracy protests of 2019. Lee’s tenure will likely bring about more or less. himself: former deputy chief of the Hong Kong police force, he was instrumental in the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

As Beijing’s only approved candidate to replace Lam, Lee’s victory was almost assured as soon as he announced his candidacy. Although Hong Kong does not have what Americans would recognize as a democratic electoral system, previous elections have seen several candidates vying for the top spot in Hong Kong. But this year, Lee was the only person apparently deemed sufficiently loyal to the Chinese Communist Party under his new electoral policies for Hong Kong, unveiled last March. He easily won with 99 percent of votes from Election commission of 1,500 members.

Since 2019, the Chinese government has instituted laws and policies that have eroded the relative autonomy that Hong Kong enjoyed after the territory’s return from the UK to China in 1997. Protests over changes to extradition laws, which would allow Hong Kong residents suspected of crimes to be extradited to mainland China for trial, has exploded across the region amid calls for strengthened democratic institutions. Such protests, while effective in indefinitely delaying extradition laws, ultimately led to a National Security Act be enacted. Under that law, many high-profile activists appreciate it Agnes Chow, a pro-democracy activist and member of the pro-democracy civil society group Demosisto, as well as opposition politicians and business executives, were arrested. Since then, a “climate of fear” has pervaded the city and virtually extinguished the democratic resistance movement, according to one Analysis of February 2021 by Thomas E. Kellogg and Lydia Wong of the Georgetown Center for Asian Law. (Lydia Wong is a pseudonym for a scholar who works in the People’s Republic of China.)

The mainland Chinese government has also instituted several reforms of Hong Kong’s governance structure, which have helped consolidate Chinese control over the city, as Michael Martin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Hong Kong pointed out. a February report Twelve pro-democracy candidates were barred from running in the 2020 Legislative Council elections (the Hong Kong legislature, often abbreviated to LegCo), which were then postponed to December 2021. Meanwhile, the Assembly’s Chinese Standing Committee People’s National Council (NPC), with Lam’s help, instituted amendments to Hong Kong’s Basic Law – the city’s governing statute – ensuring that a larger percentage of seats in the LegCo would be friends with China.

The NPC Standing Committee has also created an institution to evaluate potential political candidates, the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee, or CERC. As of April 14, the CERC had only four members – all unelected government officials – and three unofficial members, according to a government press release. Lee, now in the process of taking up the post of Hong Kong chief executive officer, was chairman of CERC until April 7.

John Lee, policeman

Prior to joining the Hong Kong government as chief secretary for administration, the second most powerful position in the government, Lee was Deputy Chief of Police and a career policeman, having entered into force in 1977. He will be the first chief executive of the police force in the 25 years since his handover to China and will take office on July 1, the anniversary of that day.

Over the past four decades, Lee has risen through the ranks of the city police force to become the Secretary of Security, overseeing the city police force during the 2019 protests against the extradition bill (for which, according to the BBC, Lee was a strong supporter). During his tenure, Hong Kong police were heavily criticized for the excessive use of force, such as the deployment of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, and occasionally for using live bullets against protesters. . Lee defended the use of force and the response to the protest, including the National Security Act, saying he had helped. “restore stability from chaos.

lee he also said intends to enact legislation that “prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion”, which is legal under Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Lawin an attempt to rid the city of “Hong Kong’s ideology of independence, violence and extremism”.

While its policies and response to the pro-democracy protests of 2019 and 2020 clearly satisfied Beijing, the United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned Lee, Lam and other government officials for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of Hong Kong citizens” in August 2020. Lee was specifically designated for his role in the ” coerce, arrest, detain or incarcerate individuals under the authority of the National Security Act, as well as being involved in its development, adoption or implementation, “according to a press release from the Office for the Control of Foreign Assets. However, since the order only applies to goods that are located in the United States or under the control of US persons, it is likely that it will not affect your economic status. However, it could potentially create complications as Lee tries to save Hong Kong’s economy after the Covid-19 pandemic and the National Security Act pushed foreigners and international companies out of town.

Lee’s choice is also not entirely without precedent. Beijing has often had a favorite candidate in the competition for the CEO. But the former security chief’s unchallenged run is almost too absurd after pro-democracy activism and Hong Kong’s calls for independence threatened China’s take over the city. He also points to the erosion of the civil service in Hong Kong. Lee is not part of the civil service and the political class, or a business leader, as CEOs of the past had been. Rather, the valuable experience he brings to work is his loyalty to Beijing, Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, a former pro-democracy lawmaker and associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, he told the Washington Post in April, after Lee announced his candidacy. “What matters most is that Lee is a Beijing-appointed executive. As long as he can serve his master well, [Hong Kong’s] the pro-establishment side will not have a voice that deviates much from theirs, “he said.

The fact that loyalty, rather than competence, is the most important quality for Hong Kong leadership does not bode well for the future, Ho-fung Hung, professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University and Hong Kong political expert he told the Post. Hung predicted that Lee’s leadership indicates that “the gradual erosion of the spirit of professionalism in Hong Kong across all sectors of society will continue or even accelerate.”

Hong Kong’s business ties

Lee’s lack of experience – in government or business – puts him in a difficult position when it comes to one of his leadership’s core mandates: rebuilding Hong Kong’s economy after the one-two punch of the National Security Act. and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hong Kong has held an intermediate position over the past 25 years, with a degree of social and political autonomy far greater than that of mainland China, enshrined in the “one party, two systems” philosophy that has governed Hong Kong since 1997. That level by Western-style openness and freedom, coupled with tax breaks, have attracted international companies and thousands of expatriates. However, like the The Associated Press reported last yeara survey by the US Chamber of Commerce last year showed that 40 percent of expats surveyed in May were considering leaving Hong Kong due to the national security law, and many international companies have moved their operations elsewhere.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has closed the city and eruptions have paralyzed the health system.The zero-Covid political dynamic adopted by the Chinese government has added to the exodus, with over 150,000 people having left since the beginning. of 2022, second Al Jazeera. “It’s an indisputable fact that we have a brain drain and some top executives from some companies have left Hong Kong,” Lam said of the city’s Covid-19 policies.

Lee is tasked with supporting Hong Kong’s business sector once again, but instead of luring international companies back, perhaps with a less restrictive political atmosphere and a Covid-19 policy, he is proposing a completely different approach: opening of the border with mainland China and development of the northern part of the island, the so-called northern metropolis, as an option to alleviate the city’s housing crisis and strengthen connections with the mainland.

“He could be a decisive leader. He could make the city work better. It’s true. But he is not a businessman. He has no business ties “, Tara Joseph, the former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, he told Al Jazeera. “It has ties to the security apparatus.”

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