Carrie Lam not seeking a second term as chief executive

Her mandate expires on 30 June. Her successor will be picked on 8 May by a pro-Beijing select committee. For analysts, Lam lost Xi Jinping's support. Second highest official John Lee is favoured to win. Hong Kong residents are increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of press freedom.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Carrie Lam today announced that she will not run for re-election as Hong Kong’s city executive, ending, as of 30 June 30, her 42-year government career.

After postponement due another COVID-19 outbreak, the election to pick a successor will be held on 8 May but it will be far from meeting democratic criteria since it will be the task of an election committee of 1,462-member who are mostly aligned with Beijing rather than the territory’s seven million residents.

In making her announcement, Lam thanked the central government for supporting her in the face of "unprecedented" challenges, a reference to pro-democracy protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, and foreign criticisms ("interference" in her words her) of her work.

Lam, a Catholic, explained that she made her decision for family reasons. However, several observers believe she had lost the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping, especially after her poor handling of the latest pandemic outbreak.

Faced with the growing support for the pro-democracy movement, China imposed a draconian law on national security in June 2020.

In doing, Xi virtually eliminated Hong Kong's traditional freedoms and autonomy vis-à-vis the mainland based on the agreements that led to Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after more than a century of British colonial rule.

According to the police, as of late January, 162 people have been arrested on charges of threatening national security with more than 100 still waiting to go on trial.

The crackdown has led to the closure of several pro-democracy newspapers, organisations and trade unions.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee, the government’s second most senior office holder, is favoured to take over from Lam. As Secretary for Security, he enforced the national security legislation.

Other candidates are Financial Secretary Paul Chan and former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

So far no one has yet officially announced that they are running, which requires the formal support of at least 188 members of the election committee.

Residents of the former British colony remain uneasy about the current situation. Yesterday, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute published the results of a survey concerning local media.

Regarding press freedom, citizen satisfaction stood at 28 per cent, an all-time low since 1997. Overall, only 2 per cent of respondents said they liked local newspapers, TV and radio (now almost all pro-establishment).