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The former security secretary, who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, has won a leadership poll.
A Hong Kong committee of pro-Beijing advocates has elected an official responsible for cracking down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement as its next chief executive.
On Sunday, John Lee won 1,416 votes from the 1,500-member electoral committee. His election places a security official in Hong Kong’s top job for the first time.
With the slogan “Together to create a new chapter for Hong Kong”, the former Hong Kong security secretary was the only candidate in the polls.
The 64-year-old was sanctioned by the United States last year for his role in implementing a national security law imposed by Beijing that shattered the city’s pro-democracy movement.
More than 150 people have been arrested under the legislation, which outlaws so-called secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s affairs. Nearly all prominent pro-democracy activists were also imprisoned, while others fled abroad or were intimidated into silence.
Civil society groups have disbanded, while free media, such as Apple Daily and Stand News, have been shut down.
Chinese authorities say the law is necessary to restore stability after protracted pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Sunday’s vote also follows a major change to Hong Kong’s electoral law last year to ensure that only “patriots” loyal to Beijing can serve. At the same time, the legislature has been restructured, all but eliminating opposition.
As the electoral committee gathered to vote Sunday morning, three members of the local activist group the Social Democratic Alliance attempted to march to polling places to protest the election, while displaying banners calling for universal suffrage to allow Hong Kong residents to vote for the legislature and chief executive.
“Human rights are greater than power, and the people are greater than the country,” the banner read. “One person, one vote for the CEO. Double popular vote immediately.”
Few of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents have any say in choosing their leaders, despite China’s promise to one day give full democracy to the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
A protester distributes flyers before police arrive and block protesters and banners. Police also searched the protesters’ belongings and recorded their personal information, but made no immediate arrests.
“This is a new chapter for John Lee, the epitome of our civil liberties,” protester Vanessa Chan said as dozens of police officers watched.
“We know this action will have no impact, but we don’t want Hong Kong to remain completely silent,” she added.
In his campaign weeks before the vote, Lee promised more national security laws for Hong Kong and pledged to increase housing supply in the world’s most expensive housing market.
He also said he would enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness and lay a solid foundation for Hong Kong’s development.
Lee will replace current leader Carrie Lam on July 1.