Hong Kong’s election: one winner, zero opponents

On Sunday the 8th of May 2022, John Lee was elected as the new leader of Hong Kong, succeeding Carrie Lam. In an election without opposition, for Lee was the only candidate, this is naturally completely unsurprising. However, in the 2017 elections, Carrie Lam faced competition from John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing. This leaves the questions of who John Lee is, what his intentions are for Hong Kong, and lastly: where was his competition?

John Lee – career & achievements

John Lee was born on 7 December 1957 in Hong Kong. After his secondary education, Lee joined the police force in 1977. At the Hong Kong Police Force, Lee has held numerous positions and had an impressive career. Then, in 2012, meanwhile having obtained a degree in Public Policy and Administration, Lee was appointed Under Secretary for Security in Hong Kong. Here, his political career commenced.
In 2019, Lee was a key figure in developing and implementing the Hong Kong extradition bill, which allowed for arrangements for mutual legal assistance to be made between Hong Kong and any place outside of Hong Kong. The introduction of this bill caused enormous criticism among Hong Kong’s population, for it was feared that it would allow the Chinese government to arrest political dissidents in Hong Kong. Numerous protests erupted throughout the country, demanding the withdrawal of the bill and the resignation of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader at the time. Eventually, Lee announced that the bill would be withdrawn.

In 2020, Lee also expressed his thankfulness for the Chinese governments with regards to the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law. This law established among others that open speech or verbal promotion of Hong Kong’s secession from China is considered a crime.

Later, on 15 January 2021, Lee announced that the new National Security Law would include police surveillance of communications, which would enhance the police’s power in intercepting and reading communications.

2022 elections and Hong Kong’s future

On 9 April 2022, Lee announced his candidacy for the 2022 Hong Kong Chief Executive election. He was the only candidate that received the blessing of Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China. Then, on Sunday 8 May 2022, about 1461 members of the elections committee casted their vote, whereby 1416 members voted in favour of Lee. The fact that Lee received 99 percent of the votes is unsurprising regarding reforms passed by the Chinese government in 2021, which altered the elections committee. Namely, hundreds of seats that used to be taken by politicians from Hong Kong district councils, often more democratically oriented, were replaced with seats taken by representatives appointed by the government.
Now, since opposition from the election council has almost evaporated and many political dissidents in Hong Kong have been intimidated, silenced, and locked up, it is no surprise that John Lee was elected with 99 percent of the votes as the new leader of Hong Kong. Even though Lee and his team still campaigned by visiting different population groups and appearing on national television, this was hardly necessary.

Now, after having elected its new leadership, it is unlikely that drastic policy changes for Hong Kong will occur. Lee’s programme for Hong Kong as its leader seems to entail little innovation, for it is merely a copy of Lam’s policy. His programme still circles around resolving the housing crisis in Hong Kong, stabilizing housing prices, and increasing social mobility. However, the real questions are of course: will there still be any freedom of expression in Hong Kong the coming years? What will happen to the pro-democracy politics, will this be restricted even further? And lastly, how far will Beijing’s long arm stretch in the coming years?

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