HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s former No. 2 official John Lee said Wednesday he had formally registered his candidacy in the election for the top job after securing 786 nominations to enter the race.
Lee, who resigned as chief secretary last week before declaring he would run for chief executive, is the only candidate formally entered so far for the May 8 vote. He is considered Beijing’s favored candidate and a sign of the central government further tightening its control over the territory.
Lee’s 786 nominations are well over 50% of the 1,454-member Election Committee that will select the next chief executive. The nomination period ends Saturday and the committee will elect the winner by absolute majority.
“It is not easy, as I have been working very hard to explain to various members what my election platform will be like,” Lee told reporters.
He reiterated that he will focus on a results-oriented approach to solve problems, keeping Hong Kong competitive and setting a firm foundation for the development of Hong Kong.
Current Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is not seeking a second term, following a rocky five years in power that spanned the COVID-19 pandemic, a crackdown on political freedoms and Beijing’s rapid and growing influence over the territory.
Hong Kong’s leader is chosen every five years, although the selection process is carefully orchestrated behind the scenes by Beijing. The four chief executives selected since Hong Kong’s handover have all been candidates seen as favored by Beijing.
Lee told reporters Tuesday that enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law — which stipulates that Hong Kong enacts its own security law — will be a “priority.” Enacting such a law was temporarily shelved after mass protests against the government in 2003.
Hong Kong’s own security law should prohibit acts of treason and the theft of state secrets, as well as other offences including secession, sedition and subversion.
Beijing in 2020 imposed its own national security law in Hong Kong. Lee is a staunch advocate of the national security law, which has been used against pro-democracy activists, supporters and media, diminishing freedoms promised to Hong Kong during Britain’s handover to China in 1997.
Lee, 64, rose in the civil service ranks after years in the police force. He previously said he was running for the No. 1 position out of his loyalty and love for Hong Kong, as well as a “sense of duty to the Hong Kong people.”
He also said loyalty was the “basic requirement” to run as a leader of the city — comments made after Hong Kong’s electoral laws were amended last year to ensure that only “patriots” loyal to Beijing can hold office.
The new Hong Kong leader will take office on July 1.