Former Police Chief to Head Hong Kong

CommentaryHong Kong’s former police chief, John Lee, will become the sixth chief executive (CE) of the Chinese-ruled city on May 8. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed its “election” system on Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997. One characteristic of the CCP’s “election” is that the result is already known long before the process starts. Yet the Beijing appointee, although running unopposed, will still have to go through an “election” process to meet the Basic Law stipulation that the CE will be “elected.” Although Beijing had the final say in all previous CE elections, a measure of competition was still allowed, as prescribed by the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. In the past, there was fierce competition between candidates from the same pro-Beijing camps, such as Henry Tang versus CY Leung in 2012, while anti-Beijing candidates were not excluded, such as Alan Leong of the Civic Party in 2007 and Albert Ho of the Democratic Party in 2012 (although they knew that their chance of being “elected” was next to zero). With the passage of the national security law in 2020 and the subsequent adoption of the new law on the electoral system in 2021, the original election system prescribed by the Basic Law was overhauled entirely to ensure that only Beijing loyalists could run for CE election. Two barricades are erected under the new system—a vetting and a sectoral nomination system. The vetting system is meant to screen candidates who meet the requirement of “loving China and Hong Kong,” which is a highly subjective criterion. Upon passing this qualification test, the aspirant will have to secure sufficient nomination from an election committee (EC). This EC comprises five different groups, and the aspirant must secure at least 15 nominations from each group to be confirmed as a candidate. Since the EC is packed with Beijing loyalists, this is almost a mission impossible for the pan-democrats. While the new election law explicitly bans the pan-democrats from participating in the CE election, it does not stipulate the number of candidates. So in theory, all the pro-Beijing people could still stand for election and generate some competition. However, Beijing decided that there would be only one candidate in the forthcoming CE election: John Lee. Since he will be ipso facto CE, his election campaign is a mere formality. The reason why Beijing allows only one candidate is because this is the CCP’s practice in China. For example, the 2013 revised regulations for the provincial party committees’ elections specified that a single-candidate election method would be used for the top posts. Such an “election system” is nothing but an appointment. In other words, nearly 25 years after the handover, the political system of Hong Kong is finally aligned with mainland China’s. Lee’s appointment surprised many because of his police and security chief background and his involvement in suppressing pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, which does not bode well for the city’s status as an international financial center. However, in Beijing’s eyes, he had done well in eradicating the pro-democracy civil society organizations and weeding out local separatism. Thus, he should be credited for bolstering “national security.” Police search a protester (R) as Hong Kong began selecting a powerful committee under a new “patriots only” system imposed by Beijing, in Hong Kong, on Sept. 19, 2021. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images) Lee’s appointment must be set against the bigger picture of the CCP’s concern that Hong Kong might become the bridgehead of the West’s subversion. Earlier this year, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Maj. Gen. Peng Jintang was appointed as the commander of Hong Kong’s garrison force. He has extensive experience combating “terrorism” and “separatism” in Xinjiang. This month, Wang Linggui of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was named deputy director of the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. He has a background in dealing with international “terrorism” and “separatist movements.” The appointments of Peng and Wang underscore Beijing’s concern and focus. And Lee’s appointment falls in line with this overall personnel arrangement. Lee will be the third CE hand-picked by CCP leader Xi Jinping. In 2012, when there was a cutthroat competition between Henry Tang and CY Leung with the majority of the pro-Beijing members of the EC favoring Tang, Xi, who was state vice-president at the time in charge of Hong Kong affairs, intervened at the eleventh hour. A week before voting, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office summoned the EC members to Shenzhen, where they were told that Xi’s choice was Leung, forcing the EC to make an abrupt about-face. In 2017, when Carrie Lam was running against John Tsang for the CE position, with most of the EC favoring the latter, Xi made it known through the CCP’s mouthpiece in Hong Kong that “the central

Former Police Chief to Head Hong Kong

Commentary

Hong Kong’s former police chief, John Lee, will become the sixth chief executive (CE) of the Chinese-ruled city on May 8.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed its “election” system on Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997. One characteristic of the CCP’s “election” is that the result is already known long before the process starts. Yet the Beijing appointee, although running unopposed, will still have to go through an “election” process to meet the Basic Law stipulation that the CE will be “elected.”

Although Beijing had the final say in all previous CE elections, a measure of competition was still allowed, as prescribed by the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. In the past, there was fierce competition between candidates from the same pro-Beijing camps, such as Henry Tang versus CY Leung in 2012, while anti-Beijing candidates were not excluded, such as Alan Leong of the Civic Party in 2007 and Albert Ho of the Democratic Party in 2012 (although they knew that their chance of being “elected” was next to zero).

With the passage of the national security law in 2020 and the subsequent adoption of the new law on the electoral system in 2021, the original election system prescribed by the Basic Law was overhauled entirely to ensure that only Beijing loyalists could run for CE election.

Two barricades are erected under the new system—a vetting and a sectoral nomination system. The vetting system is meant to screen candidates who meet the requirement of “loving China and Hong Kong,” which is a highly subjective criterion. Upon passing this qualification test, the aspirant will have to secure sufficient nomination from an election committee (EC).

This EC comprises five different groups, and the aspirant must secure at least 15 nominations from each group to be confirmed as a candidate. Since the EC is packed with Beijing loyalists, this is almost a mission impossible for the pan-democrats.

While the new election law explicitly bans the pan-democrats from participating in the CE election, it does not stipulate the number of candidates. So in theory, all the pro-Beijing people could still stand for election and generate some competition.

However, Beijing decided that there would be only one candidate in the forthcoming CE election: John Lee. Since he will be ipso facto CE, his election campaign is a mere formality.

The reason why Beijing allows only one candidate is because this is the CCP’s practice in China. For example, the 2013 revised regulations for the provincial party committees’ elections specified that a single-candidate election method would be used for the top posts. Such an “election system” is nothing but an appointment. In other words, nearly 25 years after the handover, the political system of Hong Kong is finally aligned with mainland China’s.

Lee’s appointment surprised many because of his police and security chief background and his involvement in suppressing pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, which does not bode well for the city’s status as an international financial center.

However, in Beijing’s eyes, he had done well in eradicating the pro-democracy civil society organizations and weeding out local separatism. Thus, he should be credited for bolstering “national security.”

Hong Kong police
Police search a protester (R) as Hong Kong began selecting a powerful committee under a new “patriots only” system imposed by Beijing, in Hong Kong, on Sept. 19, 2021. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

Lee’s appointment must be set against the bigger picture of the CCP’s concern that Hong Kong might become the bridgehead of the West’s subversion.

Earlier this year, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Maj. Gen. Peng Jintang was appointed as the commander of Hong Kong’s garrison force. He has extensive experience combating “terrorism” and “separatism” in Xinjiang.

This month, Wang Linggui of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was named deputy director of the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. He has a background in dealing with international “terrorism” and “separatist movements.”

The appointments of Peng and Wang underscore Beijing’s concern and focus. And Lee’s appointment falls in line with this overall personnel arrangement.

Lee will be the third CE hand-picked by CCP leader Xi Jinping. In 2012, when there was a cutthroat competition between Henry Tang and CY Leung with the majority of the pro-Beijing members of the EC favoring Tang, Xi, who was state vice-president at the time in charge of Hong Kong affairs, intervened at the eleventh hour. A week before voting, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office summoned the EC members to Shenzhen, where they were told that Xi’s choice was Leung, forcing the EC to make an abrupt about-face.

In 2017, when Carrie Lam was running against John Tsang for the CE position, with most of the EC favoring the latter, Xi made it known through the CCP’s mouthpiece in Hong Kong that “the central authority [Beijing] supports only Lam” and stressed that “the central authority reserves the right not to appoint anyone not favored by it.” Again, those in favor of Tsang had to switch their choice.

Now Lee would be the third CE handpicked by Xi.

Experience in the past 20 years showed that by handpicking the CE, Xi’s anti-West, anti-market, and anti-democracy stance would unavoidably be transmitted to Hong Kong through the CE. This has resulted in domestic political turmoil and hurt Hong Kong’s relationship with the West, which has long been the city’s lifeline. Bearing this in mind, Lee’s appointment does not bode well for the future of Hong Kong.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Ching Cheong is a graduate of the University of Hong Kong. In his decades-long journalism career, he has specialized in political, military, and diplomatic news in Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, and Singapore.