John Lee set to become sole candidate for Hong Kong’s top post
Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee Ka-chiu has tendered his resignation and said he will join the Chief Executive race following Beijing’s approval.
It is understood that he is the only person backed by Beijing, meaning Hong Kong will be left with only one CE candidate for the first time since the 1997 handover.
In a press conference this afternoon, Lee made his announcement – in both Chinese and English – in around five minutes and then left without taking any questions from reporters.
“This afternoon, I have tendered to the Chief Executive [Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor] my resignation from the post of Chief Secretary for Administration and requested her to seek the approval of my resignation by the Central People’s Government under Article 48(5) of the Basic Law,” Lee said.
“I indicated in the letter the reason for my resignation is that if my resignation is approved by the Central People’s Government, I shall plan to prepare to stand in the upcoming CE election,” he continued.
He said he would take leave immediately and would only give details of his next move if his resignation was approved by Beijing.
Lee thanked Lam for having appointed him as the Secretary for Security in July 2017 and the Chief Secretary for Administration in June last year.
He also extended gratitude to other government officials, lawmakers, civil servants, and organizations that he worked with.
“I thank the people of Hong Kong. Having been in the government for over 40 years, to serve the people of Hong Kong is a glory,” he said.
It will take two to three days for Beijing to approve principal officials’ resignations. That means Lee would, at the earliest, on Friday announce his bid to run for the top job in order to commence his electioneering campaign ahead of the nomination period deadline.
He will have to secure at least 188 nominations from Election Committee members and at least 15 nominations from each of the committee’s five sectors.
It is understood that the city’s selected few who can vote in the CE election were told in a meeting with the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HK that Lee will be the only candidate backed by Beijing.
Election Committee members joining the meeting on Wednesday quoted Liaison Office officials to have said the next CE should have the ability to improvise and prevent intervention by foreign forces.
Lo Man-tuen, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also said Lee matches Beijing’s criteria, and he would support Lee if he did stand in the election.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Security Chris Tang Ping-keung was asked to respond to rumors that he would gun for the city’s No.2 post, which he replied that he enjoyed his work as security chief and any matter regarding his future “is not on his agenda.”
Lee, 64, a former career police officer, emerged as a potential candidate in June when he was named Chief Secretary, a post that’s launched two of the city’s four leaders into the top job.
Prior to that, Lee served as outgoing Chief Executive Lam’s security chief, a front role seat to some of the most challenging times in Hong Kong’s recent history.
He played a key role in the push for the controversial extradition bill in 2019 and oversaw a clampdown on the opposition camp, as well as implementing a Beijing-drafted national security law.
He joined the government in 1977 as a probationary inspector in the police force and was promoted to chief superintendent in July 1997. He was then appointed assistant police commissioner in 2003.
Lee continued to climb up the police ranks, becoming deputy commissioner in 2010, before being appointed undersecretary for security in 2012 in the Leung Chun-ying administration.
Lee was further elevated to the post of secretary for security when Lam succeeded Leung in 2017.
If elected, Lee would become the first Chief Executive in Hong Kong who secure the top job after rising from the ranks of disciplinary forces.