John Lee, the hardline security chief who oversaw Hong Kong’s pro-democracy crackdown, has been elected as its new leader on Sunday May 8 after running uncontested.
As the only candidate, Lee received more than 99% of the vote from almost 1,500 legislative committee members, who had all been vetted by the Chinese government.
Lee, the former Chief Secretary and Hong Kong’s second highest ranking official, will take over from the current leader Carrie Lam, who announced she was not seeking a second term, on July 1, the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.
Experts say his election could signal Beijing’s intention to further tighten its grip on Hong Kong.
Lee, who has spent most of his career in the police and security bureau, was a key figure in pushing the 2019 extradition bill, which led to mass protests, as well as a staunch support of the national security law imposed by China in 2020.
The 65-year-old was responsible for overseeing the heavy-handed response against anti-extradition protesters in 2019; police used tear gas and rubber bullets and arrests to stifle further demonstrations.
More than 150 people have since been arrested under the national security law, according to AP. Almost all of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists have been jailed or fled abroad.
Lee has said he would push through a package of new laws on treason, secession, sedition and subversion, according to the New York Times.
Chinese authorities welcomed Lee’s win, saying that the “successful election” showed that Hong Kong’s new electoral system was “good” and in line with the “one country, two system” policy.