‘Family is my first priority’ – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says she will not seek second term – Reuters

  • Hong Kong Prime Minister Carrie Lam has announced her resignation.
  • Nothing has been announced about a possible successor.
  • John Lee will campaign to replace her, media suggest.

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam, who has ruled the global financial hub through the unprecedented upheaval of anti-government and Covid-19 protests, said Monday she would not seek a second five-year term.

READ | Overcrowded morgues as Hong Kong suffers deadly Covid wave

Lam’s announcement came as media said Chief Secretary John Lee, Hong Kong’s second most senior official, would step down to join the race to replace Lam as the city’s next leader under Chinese rule in May.

“There is only one consideration and that is family. I’ve already told everyone family is my first priority,” Lam said during a regular news conference.

She added:

They think it’s time for me to go home.

She declined to comment on possible candidates to succeed her, saying she has not yet made a decision on her future.

Born in British-ruled Hong Kong in 1957 and a longtime civil servant who describes herself as a devout Catholic, Lam took office in 2017 with a promise to unite a city increasingly angering Beijing.

Upset

Two years later, millions of pro-democracy supporters took to the streets in sometimes violent anti-government protests. The unrest led to Beijing enacting a sweeping national security law in June 2020, giving it more power than ever to shape life in Hong Kong.

An angry Lam said at the height of the riots in 2019 that she would resign if given a choice, adding to a group of businesspeople that the chief executive “is constitutionally required to serve two masters, that is, the Central People’s Government and the people of Hong Kong”.

“Policy space is very, very, very limited,” she added, according to an audio recording of her remarks obtained by Reuters.

Lam said on Monday that she had proposed to mainland authorities a government reshuffle that would include new political departments, but it was up to the next mayor to decide whether the plan would go ahead.

The city’s leaders are selected by a small electoral committee made up of Beijing loyalists. Whoever becomes the next ruler of the former British colony will do so with Beijing’s tacit approval.

Lee, 64, a security official during the protracted and often violent pro-democracy protests in 2019, was promoted in 2021 in a move some analysts said signals Beijing’s renewed emphasis on security over the economy.

Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other potential candidates mentioned in the media include the city’s finance secretary, Paul Chan, and former leader Leung Chun-ying. No one has announced an offer yet.

Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, with sweeping freedoms, including an independent judiciary and the right to public assembly, guaranteed for at least 50 years.

The United States sanctioned both Lam and Lee, among others, in 2020 for undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy from Beijing and political freedoms with the security law, which punishes crimes ranging from subversion and secession to life imprisonment restrict.

Carrie Lam has announced that she will not seek a second term as Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Authorities in China and Hong Kong deny individuals’ rights are being eroded and say the security law was necessary to restore the stability needed for economic success after the protracted unrest.

The leadership election has been pushed back from March to May 8 to give the government time to tackle a Covid-19 outbreak that has infected more than a million of the city’s 7.4 million residents.

Lam’s term ends on June 30.

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, it has had four chief executives, all of whom have struggled to reconcile the democratic and liberal aspirations of many residents with the vision of the Chinese Communist Party leadership.


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