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Western multinationals congratulate Hong Kong’s new leader

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 Western multinationals and local tycoons ran newspaper ads on Monday congratulating John Lee on becoming Hong Kong s next leader following a rubber stamp selection process condemned by critics as undemocratic Lee 64 a former security chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong s democracy movement was named the new leader of the business hub on Sunday hellip
Western multinationals congratulate Hong Kong’s new leader

NNN: Western multinationals and local tycoons ran newspaper ads on Monday congratulating John Lee on becoming Hong Kong’s next leader, following a rubber-stamp selection process condemned by critics as undemocratic.

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Lee, 64, a former security chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, was named the new leader of the business hub on Sunday in a nearly unanimous vote by a small committee of Beijing loyalists.

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He was the only candidate in the running to succeed outgoing leader Carrie Lam at a time when Hong Kong is being reshaped in China’s authoritarian image.

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Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, two newspapers answering to Beijing’s Hong Kong policy-setting office, were filled Monday with advertisements from leading companies and business figures praising Lee’s selection.

Most came from Chinese and Hong Kong companies, as well as community organizations.

The “Big Four” accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC) were among the Western multinationals placing ads, as were urban airline Cathay Pacific and conglomerates Swire and Jardine Matheson.

Property giants dominated by family tycoons from Hong Kong also carried messages, including Sun Hung Kai and Henderson Land Development.

Western companies have found themselves in an increasingly precarious position in Hong Kong, especially due to rising geopolitical tensions with China.

Many have embraced progressive political causes in Western markets, such as the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement, same-sex equality, and ending labor abuses in supply chains.

But they generally avoid any criticism of China’s policies toward hotspots like Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan.

Some companies including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Swire and Jardine Matheson have publicly endorsed Beijing’s national security law, which was imposed in Hong Kong after the 2019 democracy protests to curb dissent.

Can Hong Kong reopen?
The rise of Lee, who is under US sanctions, puts a security officer in Hong Kong’s top job for the first time after a tumultuous few years for a city hit economically by political instability and pandemic controls. debilitating.

Despite the city’s mini-constitution that promises universal suffrage, Hong Kong has never been a democracy, the source of years of protest since the 1997 handover to China.

After the 2019 demonstrations, Beijing responded with a crackdown and a new “patriots only” political investigation system that rooted out open political opposition from the city.

Lee faced no challengers and won 99 percent of the votes cast by the 1,461-member committee that chooses the city’s leader, about 0.02 percent of the city’s population.

Beijing hailed the process as “a true demonstration of democratic spirit.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, responded that the selection process was a “violation of democratic principles and political pluralism.”

Lee, a former police officer, vowed to strengthen Hong Kong’s national security and further integrate the city with the mainland.

He wants to restart the city’s economy and slowly reopen its pandemic-sealed borders at a time when rivals have come to live with the coronavirus.

But it’s unclear how he can do that, given that China has doubled down on its strict zero-Covid strategy.

On Monday morning, Lam met with his successor, Lee, and both delivered brief speeches stressing that they would prepare for an orderly transition between their administrations.

Lee, who will take office on July 1, was Lam’s chief of security and later his deputy.

Reporters asked if Hongkongers could criticize his administration or risk arrest for “speech crimes” like dozens of democracy activists in recent years.

Lee was offended by that description.

“I think you are very wrong in describing that people are now being prosecuted simply for their expressed opinions,” he said.

“People are brought to court for the suspicion against them and their actions in contravention of the law,” he added. “It’s your action.”

Lee said his first port of call would be China’s top agencies in Hong Kong: the Liaison Office, the national security committee, the Foreign Ministry office and the People’s Liberation Army garrison.

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