Hong Kong’s Ex-Security Chief John Lee Becomes New Leader

Hong Kong

John Lee has been named the new leader of Hong Kong after a closed voting process in which he was the only candidate, BBC reports.

Lee’s appointment is being seen widely as a move by the government of China to tighten its grip over the city. 

Lee is a staunch supporter of China and Beijing. As the security chief, he oversaw the sometimes violent crackdowns against pro-democracy protestors in 2019. He was also the city’s second-highest ranking official, and was always tipped to be the favorite to step into this role. 

Chief executive Carrie Lam is the outgoing leader, who has been in the role since 2017. She announced earlier that she would not be seeking a second term. 

Hong Kong’s leaders are selected by a closed-circle committee, consisting of about 1,500 members, all of whom are loyalists to Beijing. 

This time around, there was only one candidate for them to choose to elect. 

Lee has the backing of Beijing, but he is deeply unpopular for the role he played in overseeing protest crackdowns during demonstrations over a controversial extradition bill in 2019. 

Lee backed the bill despite the unrest and protest, and then came under intense criticism for sanctioning the police’s use of weapons against protesters to disperse them, including rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, and even sometimes live ammunition. 

In 2020, Lee also supported the imposition of controversial national security law. The new law criminalized most forms of protest and dissent and also further reduced the autonomy of Hong Kong. 

Lee was brought into the leadership ranks last year. Analysts say that this was a sign that Beijing had the intention to focus on security in Hong Kong. 

The implementation of the law led to the United States sanctioning him and also a dozen other officials. 

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