If all experienced absent in accordance to plan, John Lee would now be nearing retirement following a extended occupation in engineering. Alternatively, the former Hong Kong policeman and security tsar stands on the cusp of getting to be the territory’s following chief government.
The predicted appointment of Lee, 64, as Hong Kong’s fifth chief government since the former British colony reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 was all but assured this week immediately after the incumbent, Carrie Lam, introduced that she would not search for a next 5-year time period. Even prior to Lee confirmed his desire to exchange her, the Chinese Communist party’s representatives in the territory instructed a 1,500-seat, “patriots only” election committee to back him in the May perhaps 8 vote.
Assuming anything goes as scripted, Lee, who is currently Hong Kong’s next best position formal, will be sworn in on July 1. This falls exactly halfway by means of the 50 a long time of “one nation, two systems” autonomy that Beijing guaranteed to Hong Kong. He will inherit a metropolis that has improved drastically above latest decades, its beforehand sturdy freedoms and boisterous civil modern society decimated by the national protection regulation imposed two a long time back by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s great worldwide financial centres also hangs in the harmony, as Xi’s stringent “zero-Covid” pandemic controls minimize it off from the two the outdoors earth and its Chinese hinterland.
“John signifies the great importance of security and a secure ecosystem for Hong Kong,” says Ronny Tong, a member of the cabinet that advises Lam. He provides that experienced Beijing opted as an alternative to again Lam’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, it would have indicated Xi’s administration was “putting money recovery at the forefront” of Hong Kong’s coverage agenda. In accordance to Tong, “John and Paul symbolize two solely diverse methods.”
From a modest background, Lee excelled academically and gained a area with the engineering college at the College of Hong Kong. But he never took it up, alternatively joining the law enforcement force straight out of high faculty in 1977. Soon after that, Lee all but disappeared into the force for the superior portion of 40 a long time just before a late entry into politics in which he rose to prominence as Lam’s security secretary in 2017.
“He has been reasonably low profile until lately folks never know a lot about him,” suggests Lau Chi-pang, a professor at Lingnan University who sits on the election committee that will rubber-stamp Lee’s appointment.
In a city where by official asset declarations normally reveal huge residence portfolios and unique club memberships between public servants, Lee has a single apartment in a fairly tranquil neighbourhood and belongs to a handful of law enforcement officer associations.
If it were being not for two historic blunders by Lam that finished her hope of serving a second time period, Lee might have pale absent into a peaceful retirement. Ironically, in light of his imminent promotion, he was intently associated in the two. In 2019 Lam proposed legislation that would have allowed Hong Kong people to be extradited to mainland China if needed by the authorities there. As safety secretary, Lee lobbied prominently for the controversial invoice.
It proved to be a disastrous misreading of the community temper, sparking the most significant professional-democracy movement on Chinese soil due to the fact the 1989 Tiananmen Sq. protests. Mass protests ensued — such as one attended by an estimated 2mn of Hong Kong’s 7.5mn populace. The bill was reluctantly withdrawn by the govt.
Then, soon after Covid-19 erupted out of central China in January 2020, Lam’s administration failed to vaccinate enough of Hong Kong’s susceptible aged. When the territory’s formerly helpful defences have been overwhelmed by the Omicron variant before this calendar year, a lot more than 8,000 men and women died in only a few months. By this time Lee experienced been promoted to chief secretary and performed a important part in the bungled response.
Eventually Lee has been rewarded for helping to crush the professional-democracy movement, correcting, in Beijing’s eyes, Lam’s first oversight. This was designed simpler by the national security law bludgeon Xi handed him in June 2020. Lee has unapologetically deployed it against professional-democracy legislators and activists, dozens of whom are now in prison or exile. His marketing is a sign that Beijing sights this approach as significantly from above.
Right after the Trump administration sanctioned him, Lam and other senior officers for aiding and abetting Xi’s “degradation of Hong Kong’s autonomy”, Lee responded: “I don’t care . . . I scoff at [the sanctions]. I despise them.”
“In the eyes of the central govt John Lee can be relied on to preserve Hong Kong stable and safe and sound from the difficulties posed by international powers,” claims Lau, the election committee member.
Though 1 professional-Beijing company determine claims that “knowing the ins and outs of the economy isn’t what [Lee] is recognized for”, he and other supporters argue that the main govt-in-ready can delegate economic and monetary final decision-making to persons who do. That way, Lee can carry on to concentration on the security and steadiness — Beijing model — that they imagine is a prerequisite if Hong Kong is to arise from its zero-Covid coma.
“It is plain that economics is not John Lee’s strength,” agrees Ip Kwok-him, a cupboard member, who thinks “he will direct the city well” no matter. Know-how in economics and finance, following all, is not what China is searching for in Hong Kong’s future main government.