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HONG KONG — John Lee “will make Hong Kongers and global traders really feel comfy, relaxed and filled with self assurance,” a pro-Beijing newspaper declared. He’ll assist town “get started anew to reach larger glories,” the state-run China Day by day wrote, in considered one of a chain of articles praising him.

His upward thrust to the highest management place is “a concentrated embodiment of public opinion,” mentioned China’s authentic arm in Hong Kong, despite the fact that just one,424 participants of a government-vetted committee voted for him on Sunday, in an uncontested race managed by means of Beijing.

Having formally turn out to be the following leader government, Mr. Lee is now Beijing’s guy, a security-minded authentic who can also be relied directly to observe orders and stay Hong Kong in line.

His political time table is the following bankruptcy in China’s imaginative and prescient for the previous British colony, set in movement by means of the sweeping nationwide safety regulation imposed two years in the past, which quashed dissent in a town as soon as recognized for its colourful civil society and freewheeling press.

Mr. Lee, a best architect of the crackdown at the antigovernment protests that roiled Hong Kong in 2019, inherits a town that has been tamed and cowed, with Beijing’s maximum outspoken critics at the back of bars or in exile. Not like his predecessor, he’ll stumble upon little resistance to a legislative slate that prioritizes social balance and bureaucratic loyalty, the beliefs of China’s ruling Communist Birthday celebration.

However he’ll additionally face a town embattled by means of the coronavirus and one of the international’s hardest pandemic restrictions. The financial system is shrinking, unemployment is emerging and rising numbers of persons are leaving town, imperiling Hong Kong’s standing as an international monetary heart.

Mr. Lee waved and bowed to applauding citizens on Sunday after being declared the winner. “Having restored order from chaos, it’s top time that Hong Kong begins a brand new bankruptcy of construction, a bankruptcy that will probably be aimed at larger prosperity for all,” he mentioned.

Since Hong Kong was once reclaimed by means of China in 1997, Beijing has at all times let it’s recognized who it needs within the best process, despite the fact that it did so extra subtly previously.

Jiang Zemin, China’s then-leader, gave his tacit make stronger to Tung Chee-hwa, the primary leader government, by means of singling him out for a protracted handshake at a 1996 assembly in Beijing. In 2012, the Central Liaison Place of work, which formally represents the Chinese language authorities in Hong Kong, quietly advised electors to pick out Leung Chun-ying, the eventual winner.

When Mr. Lee introduced his aim to run, he famous that he first wanted Beijing’s permission to step down as leader secretary, town’s No. 2 process. It was once a easy topic of process, but additionally a public declaration of who was once calling the pictures.

Mr. Lee’s ascension was once all however confident a month in the past when his predecessor, Carrie Lam, mentioned she would now not search a 2nd time period and Beijing authorized his candidacy. No one else garnered sufficient nominations to make the poll.

The method has at all times been tightly managed, however China got rid of any veneer of festival or opposition this time. Between new electoral regulations and the nationwide safety regulation, the pro-democracy camp was once successfully neutered.

As leader secretary, Mr. Lee led a panel that vetted the election committee participants for loyalty remaining yr. On Sunday, 1,416 participants of them voted for Mr. Lee, with simply 8 adversarial. He’ll be sworn in on July 1, the twenty fifth anniversary of Hong Kong’s go back to China.

“Beijing has utterly stacked the election committee with its loyalists and additional twisted the method right into a meaningless festival,” mentioned Larry Diamond, a senior fellow on the Hoover Establishment and the Freeman Spogli Institute for World Research at Stanford College. “Even in Iran, there’s extra of a competition for the top of presidency.”

Mr. Lee’s pedigree reinforces Beijing’s intentions in Hong Kong. After becoming a member of the police as a probationary inspector at 19, he rose during the ranks, sooner or later turning into the safety secretary in 2017.

Mr. Lee would be the first former police officer to think Hong Kong’s best process in additional than a century, and safety stays a concern for him.

He plans to push thru a package deal of latest rules on treason, secession, sedition and subversion, recognized jointly as Article 23. The rules are required by means of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Fundamental Legislation, however its leaders have by no means controlled to move them. The federal government attempted in 2003, most effective to retreat after loads of hundreds of other folks protested.

This time, Mr. Lee gained’t face identical opposition.

Information shops, unions, political events and human rights teams have closed below authorities power and nationwide safety investigations. Dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists are in custody looking ahead to trial on nationwide safety fees.

“So as to maintain long run nationwide safety dangers, it’s pressing to finish the regulation of Article 23, and the regulation will have to be a ‘tiger with tooth,’” the state-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper mentioned remaining month.

Mr. Lee has been a staunch suggest of safety regulation. He advised the United International locations Human Rights Council in March that the 2020 safety regulation had “restored peace and balance” by means of finishing the “violence, destruction and chaos” of the protests.

He additionally needs to root out critics in Hong Kong’s civil carrier, which has been below assault from pro-Beijing politicians since some authorities staff joined the 2019 demonstrations. Beijing loyalists have additionally accused the paperwork of resisting efforts to hold out mainland-style coronavirus controls, together with lockdowns and necessary trying out.

As leader secretary, Mr. Lee expanded a demand for public administrative center holders to take fealty pledges very similar to the ones required for bureaucrats at the mainland. And he headed a committee to vet applicants for elected administrative center, to be sure that they have been sufficiently dependable (the similar panel that vetted his long run citizens).

“We wish to ensure that the civil carrier will faithfully put in force the insurance policies of the federal government,” mentioned Lau Siu-kai, an adviser to Beijing on Hong Kong coverage.

Mr. Lee has additionally embraced the theory, fashionable amongst mainland Chinese language officers, {that a} loss of housing and financial alternatives helped ignite the protests of 2019.

Closing month, he toured a crowded Hong Kong housing block. Pledging to create extra public housing, he described the awful prerequisites there, bringing up a mom and two youngsters who lived in a 150-square-foot condo “with cockroaches that every so often climb in during the water pipes.”

“Their largest want is to be allotted public housing once imaginable to give a boost to their dwelling atmosphere,” he mentioned. The ready time for public housing is the longest it’s been in 20 years.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the demanding situations Mr. Lee will quickly face in one of the most international’s most costly and unequal towns.

Lifestyles got here to a standstill this yr because the Omicron variant inflamed greater than 1,000,000 citizens and engulfed hospitals. Officers grew to become to the “0 Covid” technique, shutting down bars, gyms and colleges and lowering eating place hours. The town’s running magnificence has been hit exhausting by means of such measures, that have left the carrier trade reeling.

The coronavirus insurance policies, that have in large part remoted Hong Kong, have additionally brought on a reassessment of town by means of global firms. Industry leaders say they’re suffering to rent and stay executives in Hong Kong. A rising selection of firms have relocated, whilst others have quickly moved best executives to towns like Singapore.

“This was once town of alternative; everybody sought after to come back right here,” mentioned Eugenia Bae, a headhunter for global banks and monetary companies. “Now it’s now not a well-liked town anymore.”

Mr. Lee, who’s in large part unknown to the industry group, has promised to revive Hong Kong’s standing as a thriving world hub. He has additionally mentioned he would toughen its monetary ties with mainland China.

“We have now the hope and the expectancy that the following management will lead Hong Kong out of the pandemic and again on the right track,” mentioned Frederik Gollob, chairman of the Eu Chamber of Trade in Hong Kong.

Felix Chung, a former lawmaker, met with Mr. Lee in early 2019, when the long run leader government was once drafting a invoice that may permit extradition to mainland China and different puts — regulation that may quickly cause the citywide protests.

On the time, many industry leaders took factor with the invoice’s scope, being worried that it could lead them to at risk of fees at the mainland, the place a corruption crackdown was once underway. When China first unfolded its financial system, Mr. Chung mentioned, many companies operated in legally doubtful techniques.

After a number of conferences, Mr. Lee agreed to take away 9 of the 46 classes of crimes firstly cited within the invoice, in large part easing the industry leaders’ considerations. Whether or not Mr. Lee will probably be so keen to barter as leader government is unclear, Mr. Chung mentioned.

“We can not use our previous enjoy to investigate the prevailing state of affairs as a result of a large number of choices are being made by means of Beijing,” he mentioned.

Tiffany Would possibly contributed reporting.



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