Hong Kong’s next leader will be a security chief known for his crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement.
Former police officer John Lee is the only candidate in an “election” to choose a successor to Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s chief executive.
The 64-year-old has already been backed by more than half of the 1,500-member election committee, and he only needs a majority to win.
Speaking on Friday, he promised a “results-oriented” approach, saying: “Hong Kong has to seize its opportunity.
“We cannot afford to wait, we cannot be late.
“We will have to consolidate Hong Kong as an international city to develop Hong Kong’s potential as a free and open society, to connect the mainland of China and the world.”
Mr Lee will replace Carrie Lam on 1 July.
Mr Lee was security secretary during the pro-democracy protests in 2019 and oversaw the violent response to protesters.
He supported the national security law that has seen more than 150 people arrested for offences such as subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.
He was sanctioned by the US after the bill became law in 2020, criticised for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly”.
The process for choosing Mr Lee has been criticised as Beijing trying to give the impression of democracy while keeping tight control over the result.
The election committee will vote in a secret ballot but they have all been carefully vetted, and the city’s previous four chief executives were also effectively chosen by Beijing.
‘The motions of staging an election’
Yvonne Chiu, a professor at the US Naval War College who has written about Hong Kong politics, said: “Even autocracies today feel obligated to go through the motions of staging an election in order to project greater legitimacy to their own population and to the international community.”
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While Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people still have greater freedom than those in mainland China, the Communist Party has been tightening its grip in recent years.
Dissent has been almost eliminated, with government critics being jailed, intimidated into silence, or forced to flee abroad.
Only those loyal to Beijing can hold office
Changes to Hong Kong’s electoral laws last year restricted political office to those loyal to Beijing.
And young professionals make up a large number of those leaving the city – a blow to the reputation of a place once regarded as one of Asia’s main business hubs.
In March, Britain removed two judges who had been appointed to Hong Kong’s top courts, with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab saying that the outlawing of “free expression and honest critique of the state… flies in the face of the handover agreement we have had with China since 1997”.