New Leader of Hong Kong sworn-in.On Friday, John Lee took the oaths as Hong Kong’s new Leader, beginning a new era for the former British colony as it celebrated 25 years since its restoration to Chinese control.
The ceremony was presided over by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who made his first trip outside of mainland China since the outbreak.
In his inaugural speech, Lee pledged to tackle each issue facing Hong Kong one at a time, while enhancing the city’s image internationally.
Former Security Chief Lee is tasked with repairing the international financial center’s reputation after some of the most stringent COVID-19 regulations in the world and an onerous national security statute drove residents and foreigners alike out in large numbers.
Lee, one of several top Hong Kong officials who received sanctions from the US due to the Chinese territory’s waning autonomy and liberties, said that the city had been able to go from “chaos to prosperity” thanks to new laws and election vetting procedures.
After Lee took the oath of office, Xi discussed Hong Kong’s destiny as a “patriotic” metropolis.
Xi also addressed Hong Kong’s long-standing inequality issues, which some of its leaders claimed were the cause of the widespread pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.
According to the Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of inequality, Hong Kong’s wealth disparity is comparable to that of southern Africa.
The celebration, which also commemorated the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, was held under strict social distancing rules and attendees were compelled to quarantine in hotels earlier this week, in addition to completing daily COVID tests.
Hong Kong was decorated with signs heralding a new era of “stability, prosperity, and opportunity,” but festivities were subdued because of tight security, bad weather, and the belief among many residents that the city is losing its unique way of life as a result of Beijing’s crackdown on dissent.
Beijing committed to give Hong Kong a significant degree of autonomy as well as rights and freedoms not present on the Chinese mainland for at least 50 years following the handover as part of the conditions of the city’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.
However, following the implementation of a harsh national security law in June 2020, the government has all but eliminated the city’s once-vibrant pro-democracy movement and forced the closure of numerous media and civil society organizations.
Nine persons were detained by national security officers over the last week, and they also searched the residences of League of Social Democrats members, one of the few active opposition parties in Hong Kong.
The group’s members have apparently been tracked, and the police have instructed them not to demonstrate.
Under Lee, who is one of several Hong Kong officials who have received sanctions from the United States for undermining the city’s autonomy and democratic rights, the crackdown is anticipated to continue.
Lee, who once oversaw security in Hong Kong, played a key role in the purge of opposition leaders. Four additional senior government figures who are under penalties will be in his new Cabinet.
He is anticipated to submit additional measures, including a local national security statute, to quell dissent in Hong Kong.