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Why Has Beijing Chosen Lee Ka-chiu to Be the Next Chief Executive of Hong Kong?

Former Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Lee Ka-chiu (John Lee, 李家超), a veteran police officer, became the only candidate running for the sixth term in the Chief Executive election. If there is no accident or unforseen circumstance, he will be elected and become the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong from the security system.

A One-Man Election: An Automatic Win without Competition

On April 13, Lee Ka-chiu formally submitted his nomination form to run for Hong Kong’s sixth Chief Executive election and announced that he had obtained 786 nomination votes, more than half of the total votes that the 1,454 members of the Election Committee could cast {1}. On April 18, the candidate eligibility review committee of Hong Kong declared the nomination of Lee was valid {2}. Under the arrangement of “perfecting the electoral system,” the result of the upcoming election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive on May 8 is clear: Lee Ka-chiu, with the ”blessing” of the Central Government, has become Beijing’s “only preferred candidate” facing a one-man election.

The incumbent Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced on April 4 that she would not seek re-election due to “family reasons” and would officially end her 42 years of service in Hong Kong on June 30. She said she had expressed her wish to Beijing as early as March last year and received understanding and respect.

On the morning of April 6, the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong met with the election committee members. After the meeting, a member of the election committee told some media that Lee Ka-chiu would be “the only candidate supported by the Central Government” and called other election committee members to support him {3}. At 3:00 p.m. on the same day, Lee handed in his resignation letter, announcing his leaving as Chief Secretary for Administration and his intention to run for Chief Executive.

On April 7, Lee received the approval from the State Council to be removed from his duties as the Chief Secretary for Administration. On April 9, Lee officially announced his candidacy {4}.

On April 15, Lee talked about his commitment to pass Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Beijing tried to push through this article in September 2002, under then Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee Hwa. The article states that Hong Kong “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, or subversion against the Central People’s Government, or any theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”

This Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) flavored language stoked public concerns that the freedoms they enjoyed would deteriorate. That together with other factors, resulted in a massive demonstration in Hong Kong on July 1, 2003, in which an estimated 500,000 people participated. The bill was then shelved indefinitely, and Tung resigned in March 2005.

Now, Lee reiterated his clear position on Article 23 legislation, saying it is a constitutional responsibility. He said that if he is elected, he will discuss the actual process with the relevant departments and implement the legislative work that must be done and should be done as soon as possible {5}.

About Lee Ka-chiu

Born in 1957, Lee Ka-chiu is now 64 years old. He joined the Royal Hong Kong Police Force in 1977 after his high school graduation from Wah Yan College, Kowloon. He started as a trainee inspector and worked as a criminal detective, rising through the ranks to become Deputy Commissioner of Police and then Deputy Secretary. He became the Secretary for Security under Lam’s administration and later served as the Chief Secretary for Administration before running for Chief Executive.

In 2018, Lee first invoked the Societies Ordinance to ban the Hong Kong National Party, which advocates Hong Kong independence, from operating in Hong Kong. In the same year, Lee also led a delegation to Xinjiang to visit the anti-terrorism facilities there, saying that Xinjiang’s anti-terrorism experience is worthy of Hong Kong’s reference.

In 2019, the Hong Kong Government proposed to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which caused a great backlash in Hong Kong. In June, a massive demonstration and clashes broke out in Hong Kong during the anti-extradition campaign, setting off the most serious political storm in Hong Kong since the British handover in 1997. Lee Ka-chiu, then security minister, was a main player in the crackdown on demonstration organizations and participants.  A number of different sectors have criticized ihe police for their law enforcement problems.

Initially the Hong Kong government backed down in front of the protests and announced it would suspend the amendment of the law. Lee also apologized publicly, “I was involved in the team to amend the law. Of course I am responsible. Therefore, like the Chief Executive, I apologize for causing conflicts, disputes and anxiety in society.” At that time, there was even a rumor that Lee Ka-chiu might step down, but that didn’t happen.

The central government in Beijing, under the CCP’s rule, decided to take a hard line approach to suppress the protests. Hong Kong police continued to harass, arrest, and torture protesters. In the meantime, dead bodies of protesters kept showing up in the sea, making people question whether the police were behind these murders {6}. Lee, on the other hand, repeatedly praised the “excellent” performance of the Hong Kong police in handling protests against extradition.

After the CCP passed the National Security Law in June 2020, Lee took an even harder-line stance in arresting and suppressing pan-democrats, freezing the operating funds of the Next Media Group, and arresting a number of executives and editorial staff of the now-defunct Apple Daily. Within a week, the Apple Daily, whose owners and managers had not been tried and were not even convicted, was forced to disappear.

Lee, as the security minister, a member of the National Security Council, and Chairman of the Candidate Screening Committee that determines candidates’ qualifications to run for local elections, is the active enforcer of the CCP’s National Security Law in Hong Kong. The U.S. Treasury Department later announced sanctions against 11 officials from China and Hong Kong who have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy. The department froze their assets in the U.S. Lee and Carrie Lam are in that list.

In response to the sanctions, Lee said that the United States suffered from a “double standard and hypocrisy” since it has a large number of national security laws domestically but used the National Security Act to impose sanctions overseas. He said bluntly, While “it is natural to protect national security, the United States will not succeed in using the so-called sanctions as intimidation.” He also said in a television interview that he would not be afraid of the so-called U.S. sanctions. “I don’t give a damn. I just scoff at them. I despise them.” {7}

On March 30 this year, Robert Reed, the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, announced that he and Patrick Stewart Hodge, the Deputy President, would resign as overseas non-permanent judges of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Lee published a blog the following day, saying that the announcement of the two judges’ resignations coincided with a debate in the House of Commons of the British Parliament on whether British judges should participate in judicial trials in Hong Kong, describing the chronology of events as a “deliberate political farce against China” and a low act of “politics overriding the rule of law.” {8}

According to the regular opinion surveys conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion Research, Lee’s net popularity remained negative for a long time after the outbreak of the anti-extradition protest. Among them, in October 2019, his net popularity stood at negative 63.4 percent. The poll conducted by the Hong Kong Research Association in early April this year also showed that Lee’s rating was 2.25 out of 5, close to the dissatisfaction level {9}.

Beijing’s Considerations

An article published on April 14 by, a Beijing-based CCP’s major foreign propaganda outlet, titled, “The Election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive: Beijing’s Considerations Behind Li Ka-chiu,” told the story of Beijing’s thoughts and its arrangements to some extent, in accordance with the following {10}.

The article said that to Beijing, Hong Kong’s top priority is security. The fact that Lee Ka-chiu, who comes from the security forces and is the only Chief Executive candidate this time, is undoubtedly Beijing’s reassertion to impose tight security in its rule over Hong Kong.

As early as April 15, 2014, the CCP’s General Secretory Xi Jinping proposed a concept of the overall national security. Hong Kong, as a special administrative region of China, has been included in the system of that overall national security concept from the very beginning. To achieve this overall security, Beijing has other deployments and initiatives besides Lee Ka-chiu. For example, in early January this year, Beijing appointed Major General Peng Jingtang, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Police force, to command the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stationed in Hong Kong. This was the first time that a member of the Armed Police, especially one with counter-terrorism experience, has served as the commander of the PLA in Hong Kong.

Another example is that in February this year, Wang Linggui, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was appointed as the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Wang Linggui’s research areas include global strategy, counter-terrorism, Xinjiang affairs, and Hong Kong and Macao affairs. This appointment was also intended to navigate the complex and ever-changing situation in Hong Kong and strictly prevent Hong Kong from becoming a base for subverting the mainland.

The article claimed that, since Hong Kong’s reunification with China, no official from the law enforcement force has ever served as the Chief Executive. [The pick of Lee,] such an unusual arrangement itself is to break and completely get rid of the traditional elite view of Hong Kong; to break the myth of liberalism among the Hong Kong people; and to give more play to the government.

Comments / Response

Lee Ka-chiu is considered Beijing’s internally picked candidate. This is the first time the Hong Kong Chief Executive election has followed the Macau election model (“one-person model”). In reality, it is not an election but only an appointment.

Hong Kong-based Ming Pao reported that John Burns, the former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, believes that the “one-person model” will undermine the credibility of the Chief Executive. It shows Beijing’s view that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive election no longer needs to pretend to be competitive as well as its installation of the CCP’s fake election culture to Hong Kong. The CCP has turned the Hong Kong Election Committee into something similar to China’s National People’s Congress, which only serves as a rubber stamp to approve the CCP’s policies and its officials’ assignments. “This is not a Western style of competitive election, but a choice of leaders by Beijing.” John estimates that if Lee is elected, he will rely more on the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong {11}.

Lin He-Li, a China affairs reporter and commentator, said on April 14 in an exclusive interview with the BBC Chinese, that the previous several elections had four candidates with the first session; and the session of Donald Tsang even had a pro-democracy candidate Leung Ka-kit as the representative of the democratic camp. That at least on the surface showed some “Western-style” democratic elements. This time, Beijing has not wanted to have two pro-Beijing candidates to compete with each other, which could cause division and affect unity. Therefore  it gave only one candidate to Hong Kong. “China has made it clear that it does not follow the Western or U.S. election system and believed that the Macau election model (“the one-person model”) saves time and effort. It can rally the pro-Beijing camp to support a candidate that Beijing considers competent and satisfactory. ” {12}

On April 9, Du Yaoming, former Assistant Professor at the Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University and a senior journalism scholar, pointed out that in Beijing’s eye, stability overrides everything and political issues have become matters of public security. Lee Ka-chiu’s specialties are the police, public security, and national security. According to Du,”To let Lee be the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong, he can better use police power and national security to deter opposition forces at home and abroad in Hong Kong. China of course is deeply grateful to get such a person, and do not think otherwise.”

Du Yaoming suggested that, after the anti-extradition campaign, Beijing has been wanting to replace Hong Kong with Shenzhen, and incorporate Hong Kong into the Greater Bay Area, with Shenzhen as the “engine” and Hong Kong being reduced to a supporting role. This clearly reflects the Beijing’s intention to comprehensively control Hong Kong. The Chief Executive is a perfect “puppet” for the CCP. The CCP would thus implant the mainland model into Hong Kong more quickly and make the transition to “one country, one system” as soon as possible. {13}

As for such a Chief Executive election, Du also said on April 21 that Lee’s candidacy was announced just before the nomination began, and there was only one candidate, no political platform, no debate, no questioning, and no society participation. There are, however, an increasingly large number of supporters, and increasingly loud voices of praise (from the Election Committee). So though the election had not yet started, the result had already been determined. That’s clearly witnessing the birth of a closed process. It seems not only did the “Sino-British Joint Declaration” become merely a historical document, but also the “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” idea inevitably became a historical concept as well. {14}

Ching Cheong, a senior journalist in Hong Kong, said in an exclusive interview with the BBC Chinese, that the Chief Executive election this time is that after the CCP’s top level decision, the lower-level Hong Kong members automatically voted for him. He said that Beijing has repeatedly stressed in the past few years that Hong Kong should strengthen its responsibility for national security and predicted that Lee had two major tasks after taking office, including passing the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law and implementing the national security policies in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, under Lee’s rule, may become a “police city-state.” “He will further stifle the idea of democracy and freedom. A quite mature civil society will be further stifled.” {15}

Kenneth Chan, Associate Professor of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Baptist University, said in an interview with Radio France International on April 19 that the CCP’s disguised appointment of the Chief Executive marked the beginning of authoritarian rule in Hong Kong, which is a trampling on Hong Kong’s democracy and narrowing or even eliminating the space for democracy in Hong Kong. Also, by allowing Lee Ka-chiu to run, Beijing has shown that it is only concerned with stability and national security, but not at all with democracy {16}.

NewTalk media commented that the year 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to mainland China. Then CCP paramount leader Deng Xiaoping promised “50 years of no change.” It is only halfway through the fifty years. In March 2021, Beijing forcibly passed the “Draft Decision on Improving the Electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” On the surface it claimed to create a “new democratic electoral system with Hong Kong’s characteristics,” but in reality it is silencing the voice of democratic politics in Hong Kong {17}.

Based on Hong Kong’s recent situation, it is impossible and hopeless to try to implement the Basic Law’s promise of “dual universal suffrage” for the Chief Executive and the legislature.

On April 20, YouTube and Facebook announced action to block Lee’s social media channels. YouTube shut down Lee’s campaign channel on the ground that it violated the U.S. sanctions laws and Facebook said it is also blocking Lee’s use of its payment services because it must comply with the U.S. law.

China’s Foreign Ministry on April 22 accused “certain U.S. companies” of being “political tools” of the U.S. government, claiming that the United States had “malicious” intentions to “disrupt” the Hong Kong’s election. {18}

Ever since it took this pearl of the east back from the British, the CCP has never held a real election in Hong Kong. However, in the past, it at least put on a thin veil to pretend it was doing so. Now, it openly challenges the West with an in-your-face theatrical one-man “election.” It will be interesting to see how the world responds.


1. Secret China, “Li Ka-chiu officially registered to run for Chief Executive and academics criticize Beijing for creating an atmosphere,” April 14, 2022.
2. People’s Daily, “Lee Ka-chiu validly nominated for HKSAR’s sixth-term chief executive election,” April 19, 2022.
3. HK01, “The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government met with the Election Committee members: Lee Ka-chiu is the only candidate,” April 6, 2022.政情/755567.
4. Voice of America, “Former Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Lee Ka-chiu registered to run for the Chief Executive election and was nominated by 786 members of the Election Committee, making him the only candidate,” April 13, 2022.
5. DW News, “Set the tone for Article 23 legislation – Lee Ka-chiu: must do and do as soon as possible,” April 15, 2022.
6. Liberty Times, “Dead Bodies Kept Showing Up in the Sea in Hong Kong,” October 11, 2019.
7. Ming Jing News, “Lee Ka-chiu’s story and deeds, almost step down due to the anti-extradition campaign,” April 7, 2022.
8. Initium Media, “The only ‘blessed’ Lee Ka-chiu: what kind of Chief Executive does Beijing want?” April 6, 2022.
9. BBC, “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election: Lee Ka-chiu’s ‘votes’ have exceeded half of the election committee, what a tough Hong Kong Chief Executive will bring,” April 14, 2022.
10. DW News, “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election: Beijing’s consideration behind Lee Ka-chiu,” April 14, 2022.中国/60285416/.
11. Ming Jing News, “Lee Ka-chiu’s story and deeds, almost step down due to the anti-extradition campaign,” April 7, 2022.
12. BBC, “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election: Lee Ka-chiu’s “votes” have exceeded half of the election committee, what a tough Hong Kong Chief Executive will bring,” April 14, 2022.
13. Secret China, “In-depth analysis: Why did Beijing choose Lee Ka-chiu?” April 9, 2022.
14. IPK Media, “The election of the Chief Executive can be “the beginning is the end” how to rule Hong Kong without political and human harmony,” April 21, 2022.
15. BBC, “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election: Lee Ka-chiu’s “votes” have exceeded half of the election committee, what a tough Hong Kong Chief Executive will bring,” April 14, 2022.
16. Radio France International, “Lee Ka-chiu became the only candidate for the Chief Executive, scholars say it marks Hong Kong into authoritarian rule, Lenin-style centralization,” April 19, 2022.中国/20220419-李家超成特首惟一候选人-学者称标志香港成威权统治-迈列宁式集中制.
17. NewTalk Media, “No change in Hong Kong for 50 years? Deng Xiaoping’s promise to Hong Kong is contradicted by Xi Jinping,” March 11, 2021.
18. CNN, “Chinese officials slam YouTube for removing account of Hong Kong’s expected next leader,” April 22, 2022.