Sign-up now for Free of charge endless entry to Reuters.com
HONG KONG, July 1 (Reuters) – China’s president Xi Jinping on Friday swore in John Lee, 64, as the city’s upcoming chief executive – the initial stability policy qualified to run the China-ruled international money hub considering the fact that its handover from Britain in 1997.
Lee, 64, a previous probationary law enforcement inspector who rose to turn out to be deputy commissioner about a 33-12 months job, has been a divisive figure in Hong Kong in modern several years.
Pro-democracy campaigners and abroad activists explain Lee as a hardliner and staunch Beijing loyalist who has faithfully applied Xi’s more durable, authoritarian grip on what was at the time China’s freest metropolis.
Register now for Free unrestricted entry to Reuters.com
In his inaugural speech as Hong Kong chief, Lee highlighted his twin political and financial priorities expressing Hong Kong required to enrich its competitiveness in finance, trade and delivery when guaranteeing balance.
“The rule of regulation is a cornerstone and main price of the city’s accomplishment,” Lee advised an viewers, which includes Xi, in the exact same harbourfront conference centre wherever, a quarter of a century in the past, British officials handed the town again to China.
Ahead of Lee, all of Hong Kong’s leaders have been either occupation civil servants with broad policy abilities, or company leaders.
All have struggled to reconcile the requirements of China’s Communist Get together leaders with the want of quite a few frequent Hong Kongers for Western-design and style freedoms and democracy underneath a “one place, two systems” design and style of governance that promised the town broad-ranging autonomy when it was handed back again to China in 1997.
In 2019, when Lee was secretary for security in charge of all disciplinary forces, he was amid leaders who tried using to ram via a contentious invoice to make it possible for extraditions to mainland China for trial, regardless of escalating community anger and protests.
He advised a small business group at the time that Hong Kongers experienced nothing to concern from the mainland’s Communist Get together-managed courts. “He explained to us they have been fair, just and clear,” one resource at the meeting advised Reuters. “Our jaws strike the ground.”
The monthly bill was later suspended but by then the demonstrations experienced snowballed into a entire-blown movement demanding full democracy and larger autonomy from China.
In August 2020, soon after China imposed a national security legislation on Hong Kong, Lee – who served established up a new nationwide protection police division with unparalleled investigative powers – was sanctioned by the U.S. alongside 10 other folks for “essentially” undermining freedoms and making it possible for “China’s safety providers to function with impunity”.
Lee and Chinese officials have repeatedly defended the regulation, indicating it has restored security.
In 2021, Lee was promoted to the city’s No. 2 occupation, paving the way for his endorsement as the city’s upcoming leader in May well by a 1,500-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.
Hong Kong’s embattled democrats – marginalised, jailed or compelled into exile – be expecting freedoms to slim additional below Lee, and converge additional with mainland China.
Avery Ng, an activist not too long ago launched from jail, explained law enforcement had targeted far more than 10 members of his group, the League of Social Democrats, with research warrants, surveillance and warnings not to protest all through Xi’s go to to Hong Kong.
“This is the 1st July 1 at any time that we’ve not had any protest,” he informed Reuters.
Lee, who says safeguarding nationwide security continues to be his “elementary mission”, is aiming to enact extra security laws this yr, which include towards sedition, treason and pretend information.
Whilst Lee has criticised sanctions as the functions of “some bullying nations”, there are indicators he is hoping to mend some diplomatic ties and Hong Kong’s battered intercontinental impression.
“He is generally warm and participating,” one particular senior Western diplomat who has fulfilled Lee not too long ago, instructed Reuters. “But if the conversation goes any place in the vicinity of nationwide security or collusion, his total confront and expression and manner adjustments.”
Register now for Absolutely free unrestricted access to Reuters.com
Additional reporting by Meg Shen and Greg Torode Modifying by Gerry Doyle
Our Expectations: The Thomson Reuters Have confidence in Ideas.