An election committee of nearly 1,500 mostly pro-Beijing members after a closed voting process on Sunday elected John Lee as Hong Kong’s next leader.
Lee received 1,416 votes in the election for chief executive, far exceeding the 751 votes required to win. More than 97% of the Election Committee voted in a secret ballot Sunday morning.
His appointment is widely seen as an attempt by the Chinese government to tighten its grip on the city.
Sunday’s election comes after significant changes were made to Hong Kong’s electoral laws last year to ensure that only patriots loyal to Beijing can hold office. In order to effectively eliminate opposition voices, the legislature was also reorganized.
Lee will replace current leader Carrie Lam on July 1.
Three members of the League of Social Democrats, a local activist group, attempted to march toward the election venue Sunday morning while carrying a banner demanding universal suffrage, which would allow Hong Kongers to vote for both the legislature and the chief executive.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has long demanded universal suffrage, which they claim is guaranteed in the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. It was also a major demand during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and the 2019 anti-government protests.
The election of Lee as Hong Kong’s next leader has raised fears that Beijing will tighten its grip on the territory. He spent the majority of his civil service career in the police and security bureau, and he is an outspoken and ardent supporter of a national security law enacted in Hong Kong in 2020 to quell dissent.
Over 150 people have been detained under the security law, which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces to meddle in city affairs. Almost all prominent pro-democracy activists have been imprisoned, while others have fled to other countries or have been forced to remain silent.
As a result of the 2019 protests and subsequent harsh pandemic restrictions, thousands of residents, including many professionals and expatriates, have fled the city of 7.4 million people.