EXPLAINER: What comes next with John Lee leading Hong Kong?

May 8, 2022, 8:30 PM | Updated: May 9, 2022, 5:52 pm
Chief Executive-elect John Lee, right, and incumbent Chief Executive Carrie Lam attend a press conf...

Chief Executive-elect John Lee, right, and incumbent Chief Executive Carrie Lam attend a press conference in Hong Kong, Monday, May 9, 2022. Lee was elected as the city’s next leader on Sunday in a vote cast by a largely pro-Beijing committee. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — There was little doubt about John Lee’s election as Hong Kong’s next leader.

The city’s former security chief received more than 99% of the vote from a committee stacked with mostly pro-Beijing members. He was the sole candidate in Sunday’s vote.

On July 1, the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Britain to China, Lee will take over as chief executive of the semi-autonomous territory from Carrie Lam. She leaves after five tumultuous years that spanned pro-democracy protests in 2019, a subsequent crackdown that snuffed out virtually all dissent, and Hong Kong’s worst coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 9,000 people this year.


Lee, 64, spent more than three decades in the police force before he was appointed undersecretary of Hong Kong’s security bureau in 2012. He was promoted to security minister in 2017 in Lam’s government. He was a key figure in pushing for a proposed extradition bill in 2019 that would’ve sent Hong Kong suspects to mainland China, where courts operate under the ruling Communist Party.

But the bill sparked massive anti-government protests over fears that Beijing was encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy, and soon morphed into calls for wider democratic rights, including universal suffrage. The government backtracked on the bill, but under Lee, police unleashed a heavy response that included the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters as well as mass arrests.

The following year, in 2020, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, with Lee as its main supporter and enforcer. The law, which outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the city’s affairs, was used to clear streets of protesters, silence government opponents and crack down on freewheeling media.

The same year, Lee and other Chinese as well as Hong Kong officials including Lam were sanctioned by the U.S. “for being involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals under the authority of the National Security Law, as well as being involved in its development, adoption, or implementation.”

In June 2021, Lee was promoted to chief secretary for administration, effectively becoming the No. 2 official in Hong Kong.

He resigned from his post in April to stand for the leadership polls. During his election campaign, YouTube terminated Lee’s channel in compliance with U.S. sanctions — a move that Lee described as “bullying” and “unreasonable.”


Experts have said that Beijing’s endorsement of Lee signals the central government is looking for someone reliable to ensure that its authority in Hong Kong is never questioned again.

The city was promised freedoms not found in mainland China when the British handed it over in 1997. But such Western-style liberties, including the freedom of press and assembly, have been seriously eroded with the implementation of the national security law. Over 150 people, most of them pro-democracy supporters, have been arrested and many others fled abroad or keep quiet.

Lee has also pledged to enact a local legislation to protect against security threats, known as Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Previous attempts to pass the bill have failed because of strong local opposition. Article 23 stipulates that the city shall enact its own laws to prohibit “any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government,” as well as “theft of state secrets.”


This year’s vote for Hong Kong’s chief executive is the first since the electoral system was changed last year to ensure that only “patriots” are allowed to run for office.

The crackdown on dissent, coupled with the electoral reform, all but eliminate pro-democracy candidates for the legislature or the top post. Under the new system, candidates must be vetted by a committee that determines if they are suitable or patriotic enough.

Under the new electoral rules, Lee was the only candidate who received backing by Beijing. Several people, including a movie producer, had expressed interest in running but did not submit their names during the nomination process.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, center, and his wife Fran, right, talk with specialist Emily Milosevi...
Associated Press

Army Guard troops risk dismissal as vaccine deadline looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Up to 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country — or about 13% of the force — have not yet gotten the mandated COVID-19 vaccine, and as the deadline for shots looms, at least 14,000 of them have flatly refused and could be forced out of the service. Guard soldiers have […]
22 hours ago
Karen Sloan said she's a registered Republican who backs abortion rights, Friday, June 24, 2022 in ...
Associated Press

Dems hope to harness outrage, sadness after abortion ruling

YARDLEY, Pa. (AP) — The shock quickly turned to sadness for Victoria Lowe. The 37-year-old lawyer, working outside a cafe in suburban Bucks County, Pennsylvania, said she couldn’t believe the Supreme Court stripped away the constitutional right to abortion that women have had her entire life. She started to cry. “I don’t understand how they […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: June 25, Anne Frank’s diary published

Today in History Today is Saturday, June 25, the 176th day of 2022. There are 189 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 25, 1876, Lt. Col. Colonel George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry were wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Hong Kong's new Chief Executive Carrie Lam attend th...
Associated Press

China’s Xi to visit Hong Kong for handover anniversary

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong to celebrate next week’s 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China following a crackdown on a pro-democracy movement that has inflamed tension with Washington and Europe. Xi will attend an anniversary gathering and the first meeting of the new government of […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Planes sit on the tarmac at the Des Moines International Airport, Monday, June 13, 2022, in ...
Associated Press

Airlines aim to shift blame for flight problems to FAA

DALLAS (AP) — Airlines under scrutiny for widespread flight disruptions are renewing their criticism of the government agency that manages the nation’s airspace, saying that understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration is “crippling” traffic along the East Coast. Airlines for America, which represents the largest U.S. carriers, said Friday it wants to know FAA’s staffing […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Investigators search for evidences outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, ...
Associated Press

Graduating Uvalde High School class remembers slain children

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Almost 300 high school seniors received their diplomas Friday in Uvalde in the shadow of the massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers one month earlier. The 288 red-gowned Uvalde High School seniors sat in 100-degree heat at the school stadium on the one-month anniversary of the mass shootings. […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
EXPLAINER: What comes next with John Lee leading Hong Kong?