Pro-Beijing security chief to be Hong Kong’s next leader

By on 12/05/2022 | Updated on 12/05/2022
John Lee
Former security chief John Lee will become Hong Kong's new leader this year, having presided over the police crackdown of pro-democracy protests in 2019

Hong Kong named the city’s former security secretary John Lee its next chief executive earlier this week after his unopposed run for office secured more than 99% of the votes from a heavily pro-Beijing committee.

Lee, who is known for his support of the Chinese government, won 1416 votes from the election committee’s 1461 members, almost all of whom support the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He will replace the city’s current chief executive Carrie Lam on 1 July this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s independence from British colonial rule.

Speaking shortly after his victory was announced, Lee said he felt confident that “the next administration will boldly and capably go about tackling the issues that Hong Kong faces”.

“I will be responsible not only to the Chinese government, but also to the Hong Kong people,” he added.

Read more: Hong Kong officials to be required to swear pledge of allegiance

Lee spent most of his career in the police force before being appointed to undersecretary of Hong Kong’s security bureau in 2012. He secured a promotion to the role of security chief in 2017, the same year Lam was sworn into office.

Lee led a police crackdown on demonstrations sparked by the city’s controversial extradition bill in 2019. The bill makes it easier for the CCP to detain and punish dissenters based in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Law and disorder

From around the time Lee takes office this year, Hong Kong civil service applicants will be quizzed on the city’s controversial national security law.

The law reduces the city’s autonomy as enshrined in the ‘one country, two systems’ governance model agreed upon during the 1997 handover from Britain.

Since the introduction of the national security law in 2020, Hong Kong’s political character has changed significantly, triggering violent protests and drawing criticism from countries around the world.

In addition to requiring aspirant civil servants to take a test on the new law, Hong Kong’s Civil Service Bureau also said last year that it will review the Basic Law test. Article 45 of Hong Kong Basic Law states that the city’s chief executive should be chosen by “universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee as an eventual goal”.

Read more: Hong Kong civil servants join protests against extradition bill

The changes taking place in Hong Kong could be having an effect on civil service recruitment. In October last year, Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, Hong Kong’s secretary for the civil service, highlighted a 30% drop in applications for administrative officer roles within Hong Kong’s civil service in 2021 compared to 2020. These roles are typically filled by new graduates and include entry-level salaries of around HK$55,995 (US$7,225) per month.

In August last year, Lam issued a warning to new civil service recruits that their jobs were at risk if they were found to be creating a “negative impression” of the administration online.

Read more: Hong Kong strike vote falls short after civil servants warned against taking part

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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