By Shirley Lau
Hong Kong, Apr 6 (EFE).- Hong Kong’s No. 2 official John Lee, a former hardline security chief, resigned as Chief Secretary for Administration on Wednesday afternoon as he bids to run for the city’s top job in the upcoming chief executive election.
Lee, sanctioned by the US government for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy, reportedly has the blessing of Beijing to be the next Hong Kong leader and will be the only candidate standing for the May 8 election.
Shortly after tendering his resignation to current Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Lee spoke briefly at a press conference without taking any question from reporters.
“This afternoon I have tendered to the chief executive my resignation… I indicated in the letter the reason for my resignation is that if my resignation is approved by the Central People’s Government [of China], I shall plan to prepare to stand for the upcoming chief executive election,” Lee said.
The 62-year-old official’s resignation still has to be accepted by Beijing, a process that may take two to three days. He will then have to secure at least 188 nominations from election committee members.
Hong Kong’s leader is not elected popularly but through a “small-circle election,” whereby only members of said election committee can vote. The committee this year consists of 1,462 members and all have been vetted for their political loyalty to Beijing.
Lee’s resignation came two days after Carrie Lam announced she would not seek a second term, citing her family as the sole reason.
Widely seen as a Beijing loyalist, Lee began his civil service career as a 20-year-old probationary police inspector. Until he became chief secretary for administration in 2021, his career had always involved law and order matters, with key positions including deputy police commissioner and security minister.
If elected, Lee would be the first Hong Kong leader securing the top job after rising through the ranks of the city’s disciplinary forces.
Over the past two years, Lee, in his former position as security minister, has played a key role in cracking down on Hong Kong’s opposition, and implementing a harsh national security law imposed by Beijing to quell a protracted anti-government movement in 2019 and bring stability back to the financial hub.
The movement was sparked by a controversial extradition bill, which Lee also played a vital part in pushing.
In 2020, he became one of 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials sanctioned by the Donald Trump administration of the United States for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly.” EFE