China-backed John Lee is new Hong Kong leader

New York: Hong Kong formally confirmed John Lee as its next top leader after an uncontested election, solidifying an era of more direct Chinese political control over the once-freewheeling financial hub.

John Lee won 1,416 votes of approval from the 1,500-strong Election Committee on May 8. Eight voted against him. He will replace current leader Carrie Lam on July 1.

Lee, the former secretary for security in Hong Kong ran under the slogan “Starting a new chapter for Hong Kong together” and was the sole candidate in the polls. The 64-year-old was sanctioned by the United States in 2020 for his role in implementing a Beijing-imposed national security law that has crushed the city’s democracy movement.

The choice of Lee, who served on the police force for more than three decades before joining the security ministry, epitomizes China’s focus on national security after a wave of massive and sometimes-violent democracy protests in 2019.

He helped lead Lam’s crackdown on the demonstrations and implement a powerful Beijing-drafted national security law that’s resulted in the arrest of some 182 people and the closing of at least a dozen news organizations.

Beijing hailed the near-unanimous result saying it showed “Hong Kong society has a high level of recognition and approval” for Lee. The European Union’s foreign policy chief said in a statement that Lee’s anointment violated democratic norms.

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