Hong Kong’s John Lee vows to uphold revamped electoral system

Lee said it was crucial that he upheld the revamped electoral system for Hong Kong to achieve prosperity after the chaos of the 2019 unrest.

“It will take a long time to achieve this level of attainment in which we resolve our housing problems and livelihood issues, and see a satisfactory result in youth development,” he said.

“So I strongly believe that we need to persist in the improved system for the long term. I will seek to maintain this during my term in office.”

John Lee will be sworn in as Hong Kong leader on July 1. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Lee reaffirmed his belief in the electoral system after he met state leaders in Beijing on Monday and received his formal letter of appointment. He will be sworn in as Hong Kong’s chief executive on July 1.

In his meeting with Lee, Chinese President Xi Jinping had pointed to the electoral shake-up of Hong Kong last year, saying the move had given the city a “democratic political system that fits one country, two systems” and “must be cherished and upheld in the long run”.

Under sweeping changes driven by Beijing in the aftermath of the 2019 anti-government movement, Hong Kong now has a national security law in place and a “patriots-only” political system.

The changes include halving the number of directly elected legislators, the formation of new review mechanisms for election candidates and broad powers given to a vetting body stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Critics have said the new system is designed to shut out dissenting voices, but senior Beijing and Hong Kong officials have defended the changes as necessary to avoid a repeat of the social unrest.

Lee said he felt the pain from havoc wrought by protesters, vowing he would not allow a repeat of the chaos. The unrest in 2019 was sparked by opposition to a now-shelved extradition bill, which later morphed into a months-long anti-government campaign marked by violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

“I have absolute confidence that it won’t happen again … The national security risks have been brought under control and it will be impossible for this kind of large-scale attacks to emerge again,” he said.

Lee stressed the government had continued to strengthen the collection of intelligence and preventive measures to wipe out terrorism.

“There are still some individual cases concerning local terrorists. Some people have been arrested with explosives uncovered,” he said. “So we will keep a close eye on the flow of illegal money … to stop the spread of these individual cases.”

On the formation of his new governing team, Lee said the process was smooth and he still needed some time to submit a list to Beijing for approval.

In choosing his team, he said he would assess five aspects of candidates – capability, experience, vision, commitment and whether the individual held the aspiration required for the position.

“In the next five years I will strive to resolve different issues in Hong Kong. As the public has a high expectation, I hope to form a capable team to restore confidence in governance,” he said.

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