Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says Chinese patriots are now firmly in charge of the city following the election of its new leader, who ran unopposed in a process controlled by Beijing
The protests led to the imposition by Beijing of a sweeping National Security Law and the reorganization of the city’s legislature. Political opponents were jailed, dissent organized voices silenced and the opposition quashed.
Appearing with Lee, Lam said such changes were necessary to restore order and stability in the Asian financial hub.
“I want to thank the central government again for taking resolute measures when Hong Kong faced top challenges,” said Lam, who is stepping down after a single five-year term as leader.
“It was formulated the National Security Law, which helped Hong Kong transform from chaos to order, and also improved Hong Kong’s electoral system so that we can achieve long-term peace and stability,” Lam said.
Lee won more than 99% of the vote cast by the 1,500 members of the election committee.
While China cited the need to restore order as the motivation for political change in Hong Kong, the demand that only patriots — defined as those loyal to the Communist ruling Party — could hold office was a central theme.
The establishment of the political system of “patriots running Hong Kong” is vital for Hong Kong’s future, Lam said.
The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US — called the selection process “part of a continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms.”
“The current nomination process and resulting appointment … further erode the ability of Hong Kongers to be legitimately represented. We are deeply concerned about this steady erosion of political and civil rights and Hong Kong’s autonomy,” they said in a joint statement.
Lee will replace Lam on July 1 and take over a city that has in the past five years been through the tumultuous days of the 2019 pro-democracy, the ensuing crackdown and a recent coronavirus outbreak that overwhelmed Hong Kong’s health care system and prompted Beijing to send in medics and build temporary quarantine facilities.
The handover of power will incorporate the formation of a new government, the continuation of epidemic control measures and preparations for the 25th anniversary celebration of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule after 156 years as a British colony.
Lee said he and Lam exchanged views on forming the new government during their Monday morning meeting, but gave no indication of any new direction for his administration.