Hong Kong’s Election Committee will today elect the city’s new Chief Executive Officer.
The 1,461-member body has just one Beijing-appointed candidate to choose from: John Lee. A career security official and previous target of American sanctions, Lee was, until recently, the city’s number-two official under incumbent CEO Carrie Lam. Lam announced in April that she would not seek reelection, ostensibly due to family considerations after a five-year term marred by political tumult and criticism of her pandemic response.
Lee’s unopposed candidacy in a race handpicked by Beijing shows the CCP’s determination to impose and maintain order above all else. Following recent changes to electoral laws and the reorganization of the legislature to eliminate opposition voices and further consolidate power, Lee’s election represents the culmination of the city’s continued transformation into a political subordinate of Beijing.
Lee’s election demonstrates Beijing’s belief that political stability is paramount to maintaining Hong Kong’s continued growth. Expect Western critics to warn that Lee will oversee the loss of further freedoms, causing the city’s international stature to weaken as Beijing’s grip tightens. Yet, as Southeast Asia’s undisputed financial hub, Hong Kong’s importance—although not necessarily its reputation—will likely be insulated from Lee’s actions as Beijing’s proxy.
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Jon is a Content Editor and Analyst within the Analysis division of Foreign Brief.