Top regional official chosen by China, not the people: Japan News

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TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – If only people recommended by China are allowed to stand for election, there is not even the appearance of an election. Democracy in Hong Kong is on the verge of complete extinction.

It is highly likely that John Lee, a former senior police official with strong credentials in China, will be elected chief executive of the Hong Kong government. Since no one else has filed for the election, Lee is certain to collect all the ballots from pro-Beijing members of the election committee in the May 8 election. He will take office in July.

The post of chief executive can be held for two five-year terms, but incumbent Carrie Lam has decided not to run again and has announced her retirement from politics. Beijing is likely to have questioned Lam’s ability to govern, as she allowed anti-government protests by pro-democracy groups and failed to prevent a spike in new coronavirus infections, and refused to let her continue to perform her duties.

Since Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, the post of general manager has been held by businessmen and economic bureaucrats. In this regard, Mr. Lee has a unique experience as a former police officer who rose through the ranks of promotion from a lower rank.

Since the Security Law was introduced in 2020 to crack down on pro-democracy elements, Mr Lee has led the crackdown, forcing a Hong Kong newspaper critical of Beijing to close. In recognition of these “achievements”, Mr Lee was a surprise choice when he became Hong Kong’s second government official in June last year.

The US Treasury Department has designated Lee as subject to sanctions on the grounds that he is undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Beijing’s satellite office in Hong Kong has reportedly expressed the view that Mr Lee is the only candidate for the post and has made it difficult for others to submit applications. This may be because Beijing appreciated Mr. Lee’s “loyalty” to China.

The Basic Law, which serves as Hong Kong’s constitution, sets the ultimate goal of “universal suffrage” for the election of the Chief Executive and members of the Legislative Council. But last year, China introduced a mechanism under which only “patriots” who pledge allegiance to Beijing and the Hong Kong government can run for office and vote.

As a result, the pro-democracy faction has been completely eliminated, and 99.9% of Election Committee members who choose the Chief Executive are pro-Beijing. In last December’s legislative elections, pro-Beijing elements won 89 seats out of the 90 available.

In March, China announced that it would fully implement “full jurisdictional control” over Hong Kong. This reflects Beijing’s intention of a complete Chinatization of Hong Kong. It is an attempt to abuse the “one country, two systems” principle that was guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration for 50 years after Hong Kong returned to China.

If the radical Mr. Lee is appointed chief executive, controls over foreign companies and the media are expected to be tightened, in addition to increased surveillance of residents.

Withdrawals of foreign companies from Hong Kong have already begun. As a countermeasure, China is taking steps to list Chinese companies on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but the decline of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center may be inevitable.

  • The paper is a member of Asia News Network, media partner of the Straits Times, an alliance of 23 news outlets.
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