Hong Kong’s Prospective Chief Executive Seeks Only ‘Cash Donations’ for Election Campaign Amid US Sanctions

John Lee’s campaign revealed that he could only raise funds in cash to guard against U.S. sanctionsJohn Lee Ka-chiu, the only candidate for Hong Kong’s next chief executive, revealed that he could only raise funds in cash due to U.S. sanctions, according to local media reports. Businesspeople interested in supporting Lee’s campaign were reportedly reluctant to donate using their real names for fear of becoming targets of further U.S. sanctions. The 2022 Hong Kong Chief Executive election is scheduled for this Sunday, May 8. Incumbent Carrie Lam, who was elected in 2017, will finish her term on June 30. She announced that she would not seek a second term, making Lee the only candidate for the city’s highest office. Lee was among the dozen Beijing and Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam, sanctioned by Washington in 2020 for their roles in curtailing the city’s autonomy and freedoms under the national security law. The sweeping legislation enables Beijing to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong. More than 150 people have been arrested since the law was implemented, leading to more than 60 charges that are mostly against democratic politicians, activists, journalists, and students. The sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department in August 2020 hit Lee and a dozen others with a host of economic restrictions, including freezing U.S. assets and any financial transactions that go through the United States. Despite running unopposed, Lee began promoting his campaign on YouTube and Facebook. But YouTube, operated by Google, blocked the Beijing-backed candidate’s channel on April 20 in compliance with the U.S. sanctions on Lee. Lee’s campaign office chief, Tam Yiu-chung, recently told local media that there would be “many other channels to deal with the issue of accepting donations,” adding that “[the alternative channels] would be legal, compliant, feasible, and conducted in accordance with the election regulations.” According to the election guideline for Hong Kong’s chief executive (pdf), when receiving an election donation of more than 1,000 HKD (about $130), the candidate must issue a receipt to the donor that specifies their name and address  (line 16.27). However, a group of businesspeople who expressed support for Lee chose to make donations indirectly through pro-Beijing organizations instead of making them to Lee, Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on April 23. The article said they avoided using their real names due to fear of being jointly sanctioned by U.S authorities, adding that many of them have assets and businesses in the United States. Former Cop Elevated to Top Political Role John Lee, 64, former deputy commissioner of police, was elevated to chief secretary last June in a move that critics said signaled a further tightening of Beijing’s squeeze on the island. In June, Beijing appointed Lee to the city’s second-highest post of chief secretary, becoming the first security official to take the role. He resigned from this post earlier this month after announcing his candidacy for chief executive of Hong Kong. As the only candidate approved by Beijing to run in the May 8 election, he is assured of assuming the role. If Lee is successful, it would be the first time a security specialist has taken the leadership position since Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain in 1997. Previous chief executives have had extensive economic and social policymaking expertise. Lee was an outspoken supporter of the national security law imposed on the city, which outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces in the city’s affairs and has been used to suppress dissent. As a former No. 2 official in the city, Lee revealed his 44-page manifesto on April 29, vowing to strengthen governance, increase public housing supply, boost the city’s competitiveness, and build an inclusive society focused on upward mobility, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. Lee said he would focus policymaking on ensuring that Hong Kong remains competitive globally and “bolster its role as a gateway and bridge between our country and the world.” However, Lee’s policy outline did not mention anything about defending press freedom or needing political reform, which are the topics that most concern Hong Kong residents. He recently said that political reforms are not the priority for the upcoming government, SCMP reported on May 1. At an earlier time, Lee told a local press that press freedom has always existed in Hong Kong, and there is no need to defend it. Benson Wong, a Government and International Studies professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, told The Epoch Times that Lee’s policy agenda was irrelevant and completely avoided the many catastrophic crises currently facing Hong kong, including the massive wave of emigration. “Lee did not dare to touch on sensitive issues such as political reforms or police brutality, nor did he dare to mention the damage to the rule of law in Hong

Hong Kong’s Prospective Chief Executive Seeks Only ‘Cash Donations’ for Election Campaign Amid US Sanctions

John Lee’s campaign revealed that he could only raise funds in cash to guard against U.S. sanctions

John Lee Ka-chiu, the only candidate for Hong Kong’s next chief executive, revealed that he could only raise funds in cash due to U.S. sanctions, according to local media reports. Businesspeople interested in supporting Lee’s campaign were reportedly reluctant to donate using their real names for fear of becoming targets of further U.S. sanctions.

The 2022 Hong Kong Chief Executive election is scheduled for this Sunday, May 8. Incumbent Carrie Lam, who was elected in 2017, will finish her term on June 30. She announced that she would not seek a second term, making Lee the only candidate for the city’s highest office.

Lee was among the dozen Beijing and Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam, sanctioned by Washington in 2020 for their roles in curtailing the city’s autonomy and freedoms under the national security law.

The sweeping legislation enables Beijing to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong. More than 150 people have been arrested since the law was implemented, leading to more than 60 charges that are mostly against democratic politicians, activists, journalists, and students.

The sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department in August 2020 hit Lee and a dozen others with a host of economic restrictions, including freezing U.S. assets and any financial transactions that go through the United States.

Despite running unopposed, Lee began promoting his campaign on YouTube and Facebook. But YouTube, operated by Google, blocked the Beijing-backed candidate’s channel on April 20 in compliance with the U.S. sanctions on Lee.

Lee’s campaign office chief, Tam Yiu-chung, recently told local media that there would be “many other channels to deal with the issue of accepting donations,” adding that “[the alternative channels] would be legal, compliant, feasible, and conducted in accordance with the election regulations.”

According to the election guideline for Hong Kong’s chief executive (pdf), when receiving an election donation of more than 1,000 HKD (about $130), the candidate must issue a receipt to the donor that specifies their name and address  (line 16.27).

However, a group of businesspeople who expressed support for Lee chose to make donations indirectly through pro-Beijing organizations instead of making them to Lee, Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on April 23.

The article said they avoided using their real names due to fear of being jointly sanctioned by U.S authorities, adding that many of them have assets and businesses in the United States.

Former Cop Elevated to Top Political Role

John Lee, 64, former deputy commissioner of police, was elevated to chief secretary last June in a move that critics said signaled a further tightening of Beijing’s squeeze on the island.

In June, Beijing appointed Lee to the city’s second-highest post of chief secretary, becoming the first security official to take the role. He resigned from this post earlier this month after announcing his candidacy for chief executive of Hong Kong. As the only candidate approved by Beijing to run in the May 8 election, he is assured of assuming the role.

If Lee is successful, it would be the first time a security specialist has taken the leadership position since Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain in 1997. Previous chief executives have had extensive economic and social policymaking expertise.

Lee was an outspoken supporter of the national security law imposed on the city, which outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces in the city’s affairs and has been used to suppress dissent.

As a former No. 2 official in the city, Lee revealed his 44-page manifesto on April 29, vowing to strengthen governance, increase public housing supply, boost the city’s competitiveness, and build an inclusive society focused on upward mobility, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Lee said he would focus policymaking on ensuring that Hong Kong remains competitive globally and “bolster its role as a gateway and bridge between our country and the world.”

However, Lee’s policy outline did not mention anything about defending press freedom or needing political reform, which are the topics that most concern Hong Kong residents.

He recently said that political reforms are not the priority for the upcoming government, SCMP reported on May 1. At an earlier time, Lee told a local press that press freedom has always existed in Hong Kong, and there is no need to defend it.

Benson Wong, a Government and International Studies professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, told The Epoch Times that Lee’s policy agenda was irrelevant and completely avoided the many catastrophic crises currently facing Hong kong, including the massive wave of emigration.

“Lee did not dare to touch on sensitive issues such as political reforms or police brutality, nor did he dare to mention the damage to the rule of law in Hong Kong after Beijing implemented the security law,” Wong said.

Chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, told the local press that Lee’s policy outline is “repeating the same old tune” and unlikely to produce practical results, according to the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times.

Lo said that Lee’s priority should be building mutual trust with the people and listening to people’s voices rather than focusing on introducing an anti-subversion bill to the legislature and expanding the regulatory capacity of government agencies.


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Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at [email protected]