Many observers could not accept the fact that there was just one candidate for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s key post, and they quickly came to the conclusion that John Lee Ka-chiu had been handpicked by Beijing. For sure Lee has gained Beijing’s trust, but he still needed at least 751 votes in order to be elected successfully. The votes were cast anonymously. He got almost unanimous support from the 1,428 Election Committee members who cast their votes in Sunday’s chief executive election.
The BBC described Lee as a “hardline leader”, “deeply unpopular for his role in overseeing the crackdown on protestors during demonstrations over a controversial extradition bill in 2019”. For his role in the “crackdown”, he was and is still sanctioned by the United States. Yet we must all be reminded of the violence the protesters perpetrated, and of the contents of the extradition bill that was said to be the cause of the “demonstrations”. The extradition bill was prompted by a murder case that occurred in Taiwan, in which the self-confessed murderer was a Hong Kong resident who could not be extradited to Taiwan without an applicable extradition law. The bill covered only serious crimes that are taken as such in both the receiving and the extraditing jurisdictions. Still, there was a vigorous propaganda campaign against it and the “demonstrations” were not at all peaceful. According to a press release from the HKSAR government, apart from massive violent protests, there were 14 criminal cases involving explosives and five cases involving the seizure of genuine firearms and ammunition. Restoring peace and order was not a crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.
As a man sanctioned by the United States, Lee has demonstrated his fearlessness in the face of hardline bullies. His leadership is also well proven based on his long service record in the police force. Lee, moreover, was brought up in a grassroots family, and had studied in a primary school in Sham Shui Po, one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong, before enrolling in Wah Yan College in Kowloon, an elite Catholic school run by the Jesuits. He joined the police force as a probationary inspector, even though his matriculation examination results were excellent and could have enabled him to gain admission to any university of his choice.
Lee, of course, supports the National Security Law for Hong Kong and places Article 23 legislation among his priority tasks to take up in his tenure as chief executive. The National Security Law that was enacted in June 2020 may be considered “unduly strict” by some observers. Tim Hamlett of the Hong Kong Free Press writes in an article that, while national security concerns are legitimate, “The problem is that national security precautions can be overdone,” and he questions the need for “national security approved judges”. However, he overlooks the serious threats to national security that China faces, and those threats are entirely real. First of all, there is a superpower in the world that has a long record of engineering regime change in other countries through coups and color revolutions and direct invasions, is an expert in propaganda wars and sanctions based on lies, and has 750 to 800 military bases around the world, many of which are encircling China. Imagine if the United States were facing a super-superpower that was much stronger than itself, with a history of meddling in other countries’ affairs and with military bases along its coast. Would the United States tighten up its national security laws?
Beijing, to be fair, did promise to allow Hong Kong people to eventually elect their chief executives through universal suffrage. But, to ward off possible risks, it has ensured that the Basic Law which was passed in 1990 has the necessary safeguards. Beijing has all along honored its promise, but some Hong Kong people chose to ignore those specific requirements, and resorted to “Occupy Central” to force Beijing’s hands. The Western press somehow ignored all this, and accused Beijing of reneging on its promises. Why?
At the moment, the “China threat” is an invention, but the “China being under threat” is a reality that cannot be ignored. There is evidence that the United States’ National Endowment for Democracy had financially supported many NGOs that were key players in the violent protests that happened in Hong Kong in the last decade. There is evidence that the United States is trying to undermine China’s political system at every turn, not for the sake of bringing democracy to its people, but for the sake of eroding China’s success. There is evidence that the United States cannot tolerate a rising power. But China has no intention of undermining the United States’ success. In fact, we all wish that every country, including the United States, were strong and prosperous, and that all people can be happy and thrive.
At this critical moment, we need a strong, reliable leader who can withstand pressures, who knows the priorities, and who can stay on top of all the developments most pertinent to the HKSAR and China’s success. Lee was not chosen by default. He earned the support of Beijing, and let us hope that we will all unite under his leadership to tackle all the difficult issues of the day.
The author is director of the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.