Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Monday she would not seek a second five-year term, signaling the end of her tumultuous tenure as the territory’s top leader.
According to two people familiar with the matter, the city’s second-highest official, John Lee, is likely to enter the race to succeed Lam. Lee, a former security minister and deputy police commissioner, was a staunch supporter of a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong two years ago.
Beijing has handpicked four chief executives since the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, but none have served the two full five-year terms allowed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
“I will not run in the upcoming CEO elections,” Lam, 64, said Monday, adding that she had informed Beijing of her decision. “My 42-year tenure at the [Hong Kong] government will come to an end.”
Lam’s resignation came shortly after Hong Kong, which has been pursuing China’s strict zero-Covid policy, was rocked by one catastrophic Omicron outbreak that peaked last month. Their government’s failure to fully vaccinate the city’s elderly population over the past two years has resulted in some of the highest per capita mortality rates seen during the pandemic.
Confused messages from Lam’s government, which toyed with it and then backed out planning a lockdown large parts of the city and mandate tests for the entire population in March, triggered an exodus by residents and foreign professionals. The city continues to enforce strict social distancing measures and school closures that have brought much of life to a standstill.
Hong Kong’s chief executives are elected by a pro-Beijing “electoral committee” whose members select the candidate favored by President Xi Jinping.
Not only will Lam fail to bring China’s worst Covid outbreak under control, he will be remembered for it propose an extradition law Early 2019, which sparked mass protests, and a year later the introduction of Beijing’s national security law, under which dozens of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists were arrested or jailed.
Lam withdrew the extradition bill in the summer of 2019, but the sometimes violent demonstrations intensified, eventually becoming the largest pro-democracy movement on Chinese soil since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.
After the introduction of the National Security Law, most prominent were opposition politicians and activists arrested or went into exileindependent civil society collapsed and Teachers and academics were targeted.
“Because of the extradition law saga, the interference of foreign forces and the outbreak of the pandemic . . . I was under an exceptional amount of pressure,” Lam said. “We face many more challenges than before.”
“With [Lam] With Beijing not seeking a second term, it could seize the opportunity to form a stronger and more powerful governing team [Hong Kong]to deal with the more turbulent geopolitical situation.”
A two-week nomination period to choose the territory’s next chief executive began over the weekend — the final exercise in a Voting system “for patriots only”. forced onto the territory by the Chinese parliament last year.
Some 1,500 members of the chief executive election committee will choose Lam’s successor at an event expected to be held on May 8, with any candidates deemed disloyal to Beijing barred from attending. A similar verification mechanism was applied to the Hong Kong lower tier State and district council elections.
Lam said she decided to step down for personal reasons. “My decision was based on only one reason: my family,” she said. “My family was my priority and they thought it was time I spent more time [with them].”
Additional reporting by Tom Mitchell in Singapore
https://www.ft.com/content/5fc93398-8b1f-4510-9b85-5ad676195cbf Carrie Lam says she is not seeking a second term as Hong Kong leader