HK’s ‘hardline’ new chief vows inclusive, vibrant city, expected to firmly heed Xi’s 4-point expectations
Published: Jul 01, 2022 09:46 PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping administers oath of office to principal officials of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong, on July 1, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping administers oath of office to principal officials of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong, on July 1, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Wearing the tie his wife fixed for him a few hours ago, John Lee Ka-chiu in a firm yet humble manner was sworn in as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Friday morning, also marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. He vowed to build a more caring and inclusive Hong Kong filled with vibrancy, hope and development opportunities for all Hong Kong families in the next five years, as the city is in a new stage of transitioning from chaos to order and to greater prosperity.

Being viewed by many Hong Kong watchers as a hardliner who effectively cracked down on the riots in 2019 with an iron fist, Lee displayed loyalty, determination and ambition at the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term HKSAR government and revealed his strong love for his family and his country through posts on newly opened social media accounts.

On Friday, Lee's new Sina Weibo account posted a photo of his wife Janet fixing his tie in the morning, while he smiled at her. He thanked her in the text for her support and care of the family, and said "I need your support even more in the next five years so that I can put my whole heart in striving for the happiness of every family in Hong Kong."

He posted three messages on Weibo on Friday, the day he joined several social media platforms including Facebook, and the three posts have earned him nearly 300,000 followers on Weibo as of the evening, with many warmly welcoming Lee as the new Hong Kong chief executive and as a gentleman, and expressing their hope for him to strive for a more stable Hong Kong.  

Hours later at the inaugural ceremony, Lee said it is the greatest honor for him to shoulder the historic mission given to him by the central government and the people of Hong Kong, and he will strive to comprehensively and accurately implement the principles of "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and high degree of autonomy, to safeguard the constitutional order of the HKSAR as defined under the Constitution and the Basic Law, and safeguard the country's sovereignty, national security, and development interests and ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

The next five years will be a crucial time for Hong Kong to advance from being well governed to prosperity, and the HKSAR government will press ahead to overcome challenges with a pragmatic and can-do attitude, and adopt a result-oriented approach to solve social problems, he said. 

The inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is held on July 1, 2022. Photo: VCG

The inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is held on July 1, 2022. Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony and proposed four-point expectations to the sixth-term government of the HKSAR. He said he expects the new government to take more effective steps to address difficulties in people's lives, improve governance, keep strengthening momentum of development and jointly safeguard harmony and stability. 

Xi stressed more efforts in helping young people in Hong Kong overcome difficulties and creating more opportunities for them to grow and shine.

In meeting with Lee after he was sworn in, Xi expressed full support for the chief executive and confidence in Hong Kong's future.

Xi called on Lee to unite people from all walks of life in advancing Hong Kong's prosperity and writing new chapters in the practice of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong.

Expressing his gratitude for the trust of Xi and the central government, Lee pledged to lead the HKSAR government in improving governance and making new advances in Hong Kong's development.

"Together, we will start a new chapter for building a better Hong Kong, contribute to the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and contribute to realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation," Lee said.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times that the next five years will be a critical transition period for Hong Kong's development and the "one country, two systems." The central government has made more urgent and specific requirements on the future work of the HKSAR government, which was reflected in Xi's four-point expectations in his speech. 

He believes the related expectations will also serve as the central government's criteria for future performance evaluation. 

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, told the Global Times on Friday that the four-point expectations are not only for the responsibility of the new HKSAR government, but also the key to maintaining prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. He said the new government should focus on resolving Hong Kong's deep-seated problems, making reforms and innovations and opening up a new chapter for Hong Kong.

More diverse talent in govt

Lee, 64, started his career as a police officer. He joined the Hong Kong Police Force in 1977 and held a variety of posts before he was appointed as undersecretary for security in September 2012. He then served as secretary for security from 2017 to 2021. He was appointed as chief secretary for administration of the HKSAR in June 2021, which is the No.2 position in government departments.

Lee's appointment as chief secretary for administration came after the region's police force demonstrated professionalism and competence in the battle against a series of violent riots in 2019.

Lee's appointment reflected that maintaining national security and social stability is one of the important tasks of the HKSAR government, and these tasks require decisive and responsible people, Lau said. He believes Lee will also study how to attract more patriotic forces in the communities to support the government's policies.

Lau said the first feature of the new HKSAR government is that more talents from outside the government have assumed public roles, which reflects a more stable political situation in Hong Kong, where the opposition forces that used to attack the government have been deterred and it is less costly for elites and their families to join the practical work of the government. 

Among the new officials, Beijing-born Sun Dong is the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, and Algernon Yau - former CEO of Greater Bay Airlines - is leading the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

Observers said that it was rare in the past for those from the Chinese mainland to hold positions in the HKSAR government, and this is likely to become a trend for high qualified candidates, including mainland talent, to work in the HKSAR government.

Hong Kong Photo: Unsplash

Hong Kong Photo: Unsplash

Challenges and opportunities

The new HKSAR government will face an unprecedented, complex and increasingly hostile external environment and challenging internal environment, especially when geopolitical wrestling between the US and China becomes more intense, observers said. 

The development opportunities that Hong Kong used to get from the West will continue to be deprived, while Western sanctions and repression will become more severe and frequent, Lau said. 

Hong Kong's internal challenges have become more serious and complex over the past decade, which indicated that Hong Kong needs to build a strong, patriotic leadership team with courage to shoulder responsibility, commit to innovation, and have a broad and long-term vision, he said. 

Observers called on Hong Kong to accelerate integration into the overall national development, strengthen economic and trade ties with Asia, especially Southeast Asian countries, and actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative so that Hong Kong can gain broad development space and new economic growth. 

Lee said the government will tackle problems of land and housing and explore diversified sources of land and housing supply. 

The new government will also formulate a comprehensive youth policy and encourage them to embrace the opportunities of the Greater Bay Area, Lee said.