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Thursday, Aug 11, 2022

A look at the family behind Hong Kong chief executive hopeful John Lee

Friends and former colleagues share memories of working with Lee, say he is a ‘responsible and respectable’ father and someone who puts his wife first.
Hong Kong chief executive hopeful John Lee Ka-chiu has garnered support from many of the city’s big guns for his leadership bid, but those closest to him have so far opted to stay out of the limelight.

The former No 2 official publicly thanked his family for their support on Wednesday, after submitting his nomination forms for the May 8 election.

“I am grateful to my family. They support me in this election,” the 64-year-old said. “I love my family and I don’t think I need to tell them I love them every day.”

The former chief secretary’s family has stayed out of the limelight since he announced his leadership bid last week to run as the only hopeful endorsed by Beijing.

Lee joined the police force in 1977 as an inspector and forfeited an offer to study engineering at the University of Hong Kong, citing “family reasons”.

He married his wife, Janet Lam Lai- sim, in 1980, after their first son was born, according to past news reports. The couple have two sons, Gilbert Lee Man-lung and Lee Man-chun, who attended the same prestigious Wah Yan College, Kowloon as their father.

Lee’s elder son Gilbert attained five distinctions – one more than his father in 1975 – when he sat the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, the public school-leaving examination at the time, in 1994. Six years later, his younger brother completed Form Five in the same Yau Ma Tei school.

Gilbert is now the head of strategy and planning and chief of staff to the chief executive of Hang Seng Bank, one of Hong Kong’s leading financial establishments, according to public records, and became a member of the government-appointed Financial Reporting Review Panel last
year

He has also represented the bank in the fintech committee of the Hong Kong Association of Banks, as well as other panels involving national development, the Belt and Road Initiative – Beijing’s ambitious scheme to connect more than 70 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa – and the Greater Bay Area project, a plan to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland Chinese cities into a technological hub.

Lee’s friends and former Security Bureau colleagues who spoke to the Post painted him as a “responsible and respectable” father and a husband who put his wife first.

A former schoolmate said Lee would attend alumni meetings with his sons and introduce them to his friends.

“This shows he is a family man,” he said.

His ex-colleagues from the force recalled that he used to bring his wife to events and would never forget to arrange for transport for her. Lee would also get on stage to dedicate flower bouquets to Janet when she performed in events with the wives of other heads of the disciplined forces.

Former police commissioner Tang King-shing, who was Lee’s supervisor, said Lee would interact with residents proactively when he was in charge of the force’s public relations.

“The most memorable time I spent with him was when we used to interact with non-government organisations and charities,” he said.

Undersecretary for Security Sonny Au, who worked with Lee during his tenure as security minister from 2017 to June last year, described him as “intelligent, determined and courteous”, saying that he was able to unite the disciplined forces when he handled the 2019 anti-government protests as then security minister.

ut critics have doubted whether Lee, a policeman-turned top bureaucrat, can handle finance and business matters, having spent most of his 45-year career tackling security issues.

“He perceives things in black and white, even though sometimes there is a shade of grey,” said a former colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lee did not respond to questions on whether he is a Catholic.
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