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Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist.

At the end of April, John Lee – the former chief secretary for administration who is now the sole candidate in the May 8 election to become Hong Kong’s chief executive, where the voters are the roughly 1,500 members of the Beijing-friendly Election Committee – presented his election manifesto. In it, he promised to lead an efficient, pragmatic administration “that is result-oriented and solution-driven.”

This focus on structure and order makes sense, given that Mr. Lee’s entire 45-year career has been focused on security.

He joined Hong Kong’s police force as a 19-year-old, giving up an offer to study engineering at the University of Hong Kong, apparently for financial reasons. (It is interesting to note that all former Hong Kong chief executives, except for shipping magnate Tung Chee-hwa, came from families of modest means; two had fathers who were policemen.)

Mr. Lee then rose from probationary inspector in 1977 to become deputy commissioner in 2010; in 2012, he was appointed to be the government’s undersecretary for security, and five years after that, became the secretary. In that role as security chief, his image as a hard-liner reflected his actions, especially during the massive protests of 2019, triggered by departing Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s attempt to push through a bill that would have allowed the extradition of fugitives in Hong Kong to other jurisdictions, including mainland China. When the protests paralyzed the Lam administration, the police adopted increasingly aggressive means to maintain order. Mr. Lee defended those actions, despite widespread allegations that officers abused their power, including by not displaying their unique identification numbers.

Beijing made its own position on the allegations clear when the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office held the first of a series of hitherto rare briefings. A spokesman asserted that the central government “strongly supports the Carrie Lam-led Hong Kong government, and the police to enforce the law.” Support by Beijing of the Hong Kong police was made explicit repeatedly at subsequent briefings.

China’s national security law for Hong Kong targeted secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Mr. Lee’s job as security secretary was to implement that law. In August, 2020, the United States sanctioned 11 Hong Kong and mainland officials, including Mr. Lee, for “undermining” the city’s autonomy.

In Beijing’s eyes, Mr. Lee was just the person Hong Kong needed. Last June, he was promoted to Chief Secretary, the second-highest ranking official in the government, when Matthew Cheung resigned.

Then, on April 4, Ms. Lam announced that she wouldn’t be seeking a second term. Mr. Lee quickly resigned from his role to run for her job. The Chinese government just as quickly made clear its support for Mr. Lee, thus ensuring that no other candidates would dare run against him.

In his manifesto, Lee pledged to enact security legislation required under the Basic Law. The Tung administration had shelved such a bill after half a million people protested it, in 2003.

Mr. Lee’s critics have pointed to his narrowly focused security background, warning that he lacks experience in business and finance. In response, his campaign unveiled the names of supporters in the business community, including Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man; property developer Allan Zeman, who gave up his Canadian nationality to become a Chinese citizen; and Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo.

While asserting his determination to keep Hong Kong as a financial centre and business hub, he has also emphasized social issues, promising to reduce the waiting time for public housing.

But when asked about political reform at a wet market last weekend, Mr. Lee said that he would not deal with that until all social issues have been resolved. Only when “society tells me all problems no longer exist,” he said, would he then turn to such issues as universal suffrage.

Clearly, Beijing sees Mr. Lee as the right man for the job. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to travel to Hong Kong to swear in the new chief executive on July 1 and to celebrate 25 years of Chinese rule of the former British colony. However, the Hong Kong public hasn’t had a chance to assess him.

Mr. Lee has his work cut out for him. Now that he has won Beijing’s support, he needs to woo the Hong Kong public. If he produces satisfactory solutions to Hong Kong’s many social problems, it should lead to enhanced popular support. Then, five years from now, if he runs for a second term, he may have the support of both Beijing and the Hong Kong people to serve two full terms – something no other chief executive has achieved. After all, under the Basic Law, he is responsible to both Beijing and the Hong Kong people.

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