France Press agency , Posted on Sunday May 8, 2022 at 08:45
Former Hong Kong security chief John Lee, who oversaw the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, was appointed mayor of the city on Sunday by a small pro-Chinese commission.
The 64-year-old former police officer was the only candidate to succeed outgoing leader Carrie Lam, who has not sought a new five-year term.
He is the first Hong Kong leader from a police background. Hong Kong’s director of security at the time of the massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, oversaw the crackdown on the protests and the severe political takeover that followed.
“I understand that it will take some time to persuade the population,” John Lee Sunday admitted to the press. “But I can do it through work.”
He said he wanted to build Hong Kong “full of hope, opportunity and harmony” after the authorities “restored order from chaos”.
So far, his campaign has not provided many concrete details of his policy, but he has confirmed that he will reveal more details after taking office on July 1, the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China via the United Kingdom.
Hong Kong has never been a democracy, which has led to public frustration and sometimes massive and violent protests for years.
Its leader is chosen by an “electoral commission” that currently consists of 1,461 people, or about 0.02% of the city’s population.
Authorities said that after a brief secret ballot on Sunday, 99% of members (1,416) voted for John Lee and 8 voted against. Thirty-three members did not vote.
– ‘Democratic display of spirit’ –
Beijing praised the near-unanimous result, saying it showed that “Hong Kong society enjoys a high level of recognition and approval” for Lee.
“It is a true demonstration of the democratic spirit,” the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement.
Demonstrations have been largely banned in Hong Kong, with authorities resorting to a ban on public gatherings of more than four people due to Covid, as well as a new national security law.
According to local media, about 6000 to 7000 police were mobilized to avoid any accidents during the classification process.
The League of Social Democrats – one of the last remaining pro-democracy groups – organized a three-person protest before the polls opened, chanting “Power to the people, universal suffrage now”.
“We know this measure will have no effect, but we don’t want Hong Kong to be completely silenced,” protester Vanessa Chan said as dozens of police followed up.
Under Xi Jinping, Beijing in 2020 imposed a strict national security law on the former British colony that stifled dissent, as well as reforming the political system to ensure Hong Kong is ruled exclusively by “patriots”. “.
According to analysts, it was Jun Lee’s strong support for this crackdown that earned him the confidence of the Chinese regime, which has traditionally been wary of Hong Kong’s political elites.
But it also applies to Mr. Lee for appearing on the list of Chinese and Hong Kong figures imposed by the United States on sanctions.
John Lee will inherit a struggling town.
– ‘Blank gesture’ –
The pro-democracy movement has been crushed under the National Security Act, but much of the population remains deeply resentful of Beijing and the inequality that is rooted in Hong Kong society.
Hong Kong, the world’s third largest financial center, remains practically isolated from the world due to its strict restrictions against Covid-19.
Standing in line in front of a restaurant on Sunday, Alex Tam, 25, said he and his friends didn’t pay much attention to the procedures.
“It’s just an empty gesture,” he told AFP. “If he doesn’t listen to the protesters, I don’t see how he will listen to the young people now, especially those who criticize the government.”
Retired businessman Yong-Wing Xun was more positive, saying he hoped Lee would lead Hong Kong with a “steady hand”.