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Who is John Lee, the ex-policeman chosen by Beijing to lead Hong Kong?

Responsible for security in Hong Kong, John Lee will assume the leadership of this city after having played a key role in the repression of the pro-democracy movement with which this former policeman won the support of Beijing.

Hong Kong’s only candidate for chief executive, 64-year-old John Lee, was nominated on Sunday by a select committee of 1,463 people loyal to China. Lee will take up his five-year term on July 1, the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to the Chinese state.

Raised in a working-class family and with a career that began as a simple street agent, Lee will be the first leader of this international financial center to step out of police ranks.

As Hong Kong’s security chief, Lee oversaw policing during the massive pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019 and the subsequent crackdown on dissent. Such actions have earned him the trust of Beijing, which is often suspicious of Hong Kong’s elite for lack of loyalty or competence.

“John Lee is the one the central government knows best because he has been in constant contact with mainland China,” businessman and Hong Kong Legislative Council member Michael Tien told AFP.

“He’s the man who passed the test,” according to Lai Tung-kowk, Lee’s predecessor as head of security.

The new leader marks a break with the four chief executives the city has had since its return to China in 1997, all from the business sector or public administration.

With 35 years of police service, Lee entered government in 2012 and has enjoyed a lightning rise. Local media say he enjoyed a “platinum lift”.

According to Chien-yu Shih, an expert on Chinese security issues at the Taiwan National Defense Institute, John Lee stood out to Beijing in the 2019 demonstrations, embodying the thesis of a “terrorist” plot engineered by “anti-Chinese forces”. “. “Beijing wanted to find out which political figure was willing to follow his speech,” explains Shih.

A Catholic with a Jesuit background, John Lee grew up in the popular and bustling neighborhood of Sham Shui Po and dropped out of engineering studies to join the police force.

The now Hong Kong leader explained to a local pro-Chinese newspaper that he made this change out of vocation after being bullied and beaten as a child by bullies.

Married with two children, Lee is discreet about his family and refuses to elaborate on whether he still retains British nationality, which he did not renounce until he entered government.

Lee has vowed to make “national security” one of his priorities, implying that he will continue the crackdown launched by his predecessor Carrie Lam.

But it is in the economic field that the business sector of the financial capital, practically isolated from the world since the beginning of the pandemic, expects changes. “I hope he thinks about Hong Kong’s international competitiveness and that he doesn’t waste time passing laws without economic use,” Danny Lau, head of an association of small business managers, told AFP.

But for Charles Mok, a former pro-democracy MP in exile, his appointment shows that China prioritizes Hong Kong’s control over economic issues. “In the past, China was able to make concessions in exchange for economic benefits,” he told AFP. “But now, Beijing seems to want people to see the world as a place full of threats and an unwavering loyalty to the party as the only safe solution.”

Source: With Agencies

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