Enforcer of Hong Kong safety regulation sworn in as metropolis’s new chief

Lee, 64, a former probationary police inspector who rose to turn into deputy commissioner over a 33-year profession, has been a divisive determine in Hong Kong in recent times.

Professional-democracy campaigners and abroad activists describe Lee as a hardliner and staunch Beijing loyalist who has faithfully carried out Xi’s more durable, authoritarian grip on what was as soon as China’s freest metropolis.

In his inaugural speech as Hong Kong chief, Lee highlighted his twin political and financial priorities; saying Hong Kong wanted to boost its competitiveness in finance, commerce and transport whereas guaranteeing stability.

“The rule of regulation is a cornerstone and core worth of town’s success,” Lee instructed an viewers, together with Xi, in the identical harbourfront conference centre the place, 1 / 4 of a century in the past, British officers handed town again to China.

Earlier than Lee, all of Hong Kong’s leaders had been both profession civil servants with broad coverage experience, or enterprise leaders.

All have struggled to reconcile the wants of China’s Communist Occasion leaders with the will of many common Hong Kongers for Western-style freedoms and democracy beneath a “one nation, two programs” model of governance that promised town wide-ranging autonomy when it was handed again to China in 1997.

In 2019, when Lee was secretary for safety in command of all disciplinary forces, he was amongst leaders who tried to ram by a contentious invoice to permit extraditions to mainland China for trial, regardless of rising public anger and protests.

He instructed a enterprise group on the time that Hong Kongers had nothing to concern from the mainland’s Communist Occasion-controlled courts. “He instructed us they had been honest, simply and clear,” one supply on the assembly instructed Reuters. “Our jaws hit the ground.”

The invoice was later suspended however by then the demonstrations had snowballed right into a full-blown motion demanding full democracy and larger autonomy from China.

In August 2020, after China imposed a nationwide safety regulation on Hong Kong, Lee – who helped arrange a brand new nationwide safety police division with unprecedented investigative powers – was sanctioned by the U.S. alongside 10 others for “basically” undermining freedoms and permitting “China’s safety providers to function with impunity”.

Lee and Chinese language officers have repeatedly defended the regulation, saying it has restored stability.

In 2021, Lee was promoted to town’s No. 2 job, paving the way in which for his endorsement as town’s subsequent chief in Might by a 1,500-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Hong Kong’s embattled democrats – marginalised, jailed or compelled into exile – count on freedoms to slender additional beneath Lee, and converge extra with mainland China.

Avery Ng, an activist just lately launched from jail, stated police had focused greater than 10 members of his group, the League of Social Democrats, with search warrants, surveillance and warnings to not protest throughout Xi’s go to to Hong Kong.

“That is the primary July 1 ever that we’ve not had any protest,” he instructed Reuters.

Lee, who says safeguarding nationwide safety stays his “basic mission”, is aiming to enact extra safety legal guidelines this yr, together with towards sedition, treason and pretend information.

Though Lee has criticised sanctions because the acts of “some bullying nations”, there are indicators he’s attempting to fix some diplomatic ties and Hong Kong’s battered worldwide picture.

“He’s typically heat and fascinating,” one senior Western diplomat who has met Lee just lately, instructed Reuters. “But when the dialog goes wherever close to nationwide safety or collusion, his entire face and expression and manner adjustments.”

(Extra reporting by Meg Shen and Greg Torode; Enhancing by Gerry Doyle)

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