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HONG KONG — When masses of 1000’s of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets in 2019 to protest a proposed extradition invoice, John Lee, the safety secretary on the time, went earlier than town’s Legislative Council to protect the federal government’s place.

Throughout the consultation, Mr. Lee, a former police officer, used to be puzzled in regards to the over the top use of drive and tear fuel on protesters through the police. Combative lawmakers shouted “down with John Lee!” One accused him of seeking to “promote out Hong Kong for private features” in his dogged pursuit of a invoice that will drive some other people to stand trial in mainland China.

Mr. Lee, who spent many years within the police and safety bureau, caught to his speaking issues. And now he’s set to grow to be Hong Kong’s new leader government in a rubber-stamp election hung on Sunday. Greater than part of the just about 1,500 other people licensed to forged ballots have already sponsored him, making sure a victory. All dissent within the legislature has been silenced.

In opting for Mr. Lee, who’s operating unopposed, China has cemented Hong Kong’s transition from a semiautonomous territory right into a town this is run a lot more like the remainder of the authoritarian mainland, the place social steadiness comes above all else. After years of mass protest and civil unrest, Beijing has discovered a faithful agent to protected its grip over town.

“Lee could have a vested passion in maintaining a hard-line solution to dissent in Hong Kong within the coming few years, as all of the raison d’être of his appointment as leader is to stay Hong Kong in step with Beijing’s necessities,” mentioned Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London.

“Whether or not this will probably be excellent for Hong Kong is, after all, a unique subject,” he mentioned.

When Mr. Lee takes place of job on July 1, it’s going to be 25 years for the reason that former British colony used to be returned to Chinese language keep watch over and the primary time the task of leader government used to be uncontested.

In a 44-page manifesto launched remaining week, he mentioned his precedence can be to enact Article 23 of the Elementary Legislation, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, prohibiting acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion in opposition to Beijing. Successive leader executives have attempted to take action and failed after being met with fierce opposition.

However Mr. Lee, 64, has a name for buying issues performed.

As safety secretary, he oversaw an competitive crackdown in opposition to the protests, wielding a sweeping nationwide safety legislation imposed through Beijing to silence pro-democracy demonstrations and drive opposition figures into jail or exile. He iced over the property of Jimmy Lai, the outspoken publishing rich person, contributing to the autumn of Apple Day-to-day. When dozens of lawmakers had been arrested remaining 12 months over their marketing campaign promise to dam the federal government’s schedule within the legislature, Mr. Lee mentioned they threatened to show Hong Kong right into a “bottomless abyss.”

Staid and severe, Mr. Lee frequently seems extra comfy within the background, quietly running the paperwork, than within the highlight. His strictly managed marketing campaign has been run with equivalent restraint.

He has taken just a few questions from the scoop media, and when he does, he in most cases takes notes. When he met with households within the town’s notoriously cramped residences remaining month, it used to be in the back of closed doorways, with cops outdoor to stay journalists out.

Urgent the flesh, even through the tightly scripted requirements of this feature procedure, does no longer come naturally to Mr. Lee, who on occasion pauses when talking to the general public and on occasion stumbles over his phrases.

Carrie Lam, the present leader government, who perceived to relish debate, has been referred to as pugnacious and quick-witted through her colleagues. Mr. Lee, in some ways, is her foil.

“He’s no longer the kind that will talk so much,” mentioned Ted Hui, a former opposition lawmaker who fled in another country whilst dealing with a number of legal circumstances for protesting. “More often than not he used to be extra like a gadget, studying scripts. He has a chilly face and hardly ever displays any emotion.”

Mr. Lee joined the police at age 19 after a youth stumble upon with native boulevard toughs instilled in him a way of legislation and order, he as soon as recounted.

As he rose in the course of the ranks, Mr. Lee, who didn’t reply to interview requests, treated a few of Hong Kong’s greatest legal circumstances, together with the pursuit of Cheung Tze-keung, a gangster referred to as “Large Spender” who abducted and ransomed individuals of the Hong Kong elite within the Nineties.

Officials from the police drive’s arranged crime bureau, which used to be then run through Mr. Lee, raided Mr. Cheung’s hide-out and confiscated 800 kilograms of explosives in 1998. The gangster escaped to mainland China, however used to be quickly arrested and performed after a short lived trial.

“As individuals of the group had been notoriously reckless and impulsive, we needed to be extraordinarily cautious in making plans and executing each and every element of the operation,” Mr. Lee later recalled in a publication for Hong Kong’s Civil Provider Bureau.

The luck of his early occupation deepened Mr. Lee’s contacts throughout the mainland safety services and products, resulting in common visits to police departments round China. That endured after he joined the management of the safety bureau, which oversees the police.

In early 2019, he visited Xinjiang, the northwestern area of China the place the government have performed a brutal crackdown in opposition to Uyghurs and different predominately Muslim minority teams. Mr. Lee instructed lawmakers that the go back and forth presented possible courses for Hong Kong’s antiterrorism technique.

The extradition proposal, which were crafted through Mr. Lee, used to be made public that very same 12 months. In protecting the invoice, Mr. Lee mentioned it could “block loopholes within the total gadget of cooperation on legal justice.” Town exploded in protests.

As soon as Beijing licensed the sweeping nationwide safety legislation, dissent from lawmakers and citizens used to be aggressively focused through the police, and Mr. Lee followed a less assailable tone because the government arrested dozens of activists and opposition politicians.

His luck in opposition to the protests earned him extra plaudits from the Communist Birthday celebration. Mr. Lee and different senior officers had been later hit with sanctions through the USA after the crackdown. YouTube not too long ago blocked his marketing campaign channel with the intention to agree to the sanctions. And as a part of a broader diplomatic tit-for-tat, the American consul common has had restricted get entry to to best Hong Kong officers, together with Mr. Lee.

That isolation has been amplified through the coronavirus pandemic, with harsh virus restrictions destructive town’s popularity as a world monetary hub.

Paul Chan, the monetary secretary, were thought to be a imaginable alternative for Mrs. Lam, however Communist Birthday celebration officers determined in opposition to a extra business-minded chief within the town. “We’d like no less than 5 extra years of safety and legislation enforcement to deal with a prime stage of legislation and order,” mentioned Michael Tien, a Nationwide Other folks’s Congress deputy and a member of the Election Committee in Hong Kong.

That helped transparent the way in which for Mr. Lee.

Some enterprise leaders have expressed wary optimism that Mr. Lee will lead Hong Kong thru a a success pandemic restoration. Ultimate summer time, he listened as representatives from a number of international corporations with headquarters in Hong Kong described the demanding situations of hiring and keeping overseas staff after greater than a 12 months of restrictions. Companies threatened to go away town. Many expatriates had quickly relocated.

Mr. Lee promised to peer what he may do, mentioned Frederik Gollob, the chairman of the Ecu Chamber of Trade, who used to be on the assembly. In August, the federal government eased a demand that every one citizens returning to town spend 21 days in a resort quarantine.

“It produced a concrete outcome,” Mr. Gollob mentioned.

However days after the limitations had been lifted, the federal government tightened them once more, prompting strongly worded letters from companies and monetary teams. Many attributed the reversal to Beijing’s intervention.

The ones interventions are anticipated to proceed beneath Mr. Lee’s watch, as China appears to be like to stamp out any embers of resistance in Hong Kong.

Days earlier than the election, Mr. Lee attended a televised discussion board that after featured full of life debate between applicants up for leader government. He had the degree all to himself. “It’s not simple,” he mentioned in mid-April, regarding his marketing campaign. “I’ve been running very challenging to provide an explanation for to quite a lot of individuals what my election platform will probably be like.”

Even a one-man race takes effort.

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