By Shirley Lau
Hong Kong, Apr 4 (EFE).- Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam will not seek a second term in the upcoming chief executive election, she announced Monday, ending her tenure during which the Asian financial hub was plunged into political turmoil and economic uncertainty.
Speaking at her daily Covid-19 press conference, Lam announced her decision, citing her family as the reason.
“I will complete my five-year term as the chief executive on June 30 and will officially end my 42-year tenure of working for the government,” the 64-year-old leader said.
She added there was only one factor in her decision, and that was her family.
“They think it’s time for me to go home,” she said.
Beijing “understands and respects” her decision, she said, and she thanked various Chinese authorities for their support throughout her term.
Lam, who became the first female chief executive of Hong Kong after winning 777 votes from a 1,194-member election committee in 2017, made the announcement one day after the nomination period for the sixth chief executive election began.
The election, which will see some 1,400 members of the committee pick a new leader for the semiautonomous Chinese city, will be held on May 8 after the original poll scheduled for Mar. 27 was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far, six people, including two pro-Beijing businessmen and a female security guard, have declared interest in running, but no one has drawn particular public attention.
Lam is the least popular Hong Kong leader since the ex-British colony’s sovereignty was handed over from the United Kingdom to China in 1997, according to public opinion polls.
Under her governance, Hong Kong has experienced a spate of unprecedented challenges that have shaken its status as an Asian financial center and a free civil society.
In 2019, Lam proposed a controversial bill to extradite fugitives from Hong Kong to China, which led to an anti-government protest movement that lasted for seven months and became increasingly violent. The crisis led Lam’s approval rating to nosedive.
To quell the movement, Beijing imposed on the city a national security law in mid-2020, effectively eliminating most avenues for political dissent that had for decades set Hong Kong apart from mainland China. Many pro-democracy politicians and activists have been arrested.
The popularity of Lam, the second-highest-paid leader in the world after Singapore’s, has taken a battering further recently as Omicron cases surged dramatically, giving Hong Kong the highest Covid-19 death rate in the developed world, according to a Bloomberg study of Johns Hopkins University data.
The city’s strict anti-pandemic measures have also driven many businesses out of the city. In February alone, more than 70,000 residents left, according to government data. EFE