HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Monday she would not seek a second term after five years in the rocky outcrops marked by massive protests calling for her resignation, a security crackdown that dismissed dissent and recently a COVID-19 wave. Which has overwhelmed the health system.
His successor will be selected in May and security is among the main possible choices during the 2019 protests.
“I will complete my five-year term as chief executive on June 30 this year and I will also announce the end of my 42-year government service,” Lam told a news conference. He thanked his team of local officials and central authorities in Beijing and said he plans to spend more time with his family, which is his “sole consideration”.
There has been speculation for months about whether he would seek another term, but he said his decision was communicated to the central government in Beijing last year and met with “respect and understanding”.
“Less than two years into my chief executive’s tenure, due to the anti-extradition bill and the intervention of foreign forces and the COVID-19 attack, I was under a lot of pressure,” Lam said. “But the motivation for the pressure was the strong support behind me from the central authorities.”
He presided over a period during which Beijing firmly established control over the former British colony, which was returned to China in 1997. Over the years, the city has dominated the city amid calls for more independence and growing signs of China, even after promising 50 years of independence to allow Hong Kong to rule semi-autonomously from mainland.
Lam’s popularity has plummeted during his five-year term, especially due to legislation that would allow crime suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial and later for his leadership during the 2019 protests. Mass demonstrations were sometimes marked by violent clashes between police and protesters. Authorities opposed the protest with all available police forces, special services and the army. “
He also strongly supported the National Security Act enacted by Beijing and implemented by his government, which was seen as detrimental to the “one country, two systems” structure that promised after the transfer from Britain that city dwellers would retain independence not found in mainland China. As an independent press and freedom of expression.
Security laws and other police and court actions in subsequent years have virtually wiped out the city’s pro-democracy movement, with activists and supporters of the movement either arrested or imprisoned. Others have fled into exile.
Hong Kong media say John Lee, the city’s No. 2 leader, is likely to step down in the race to replace Lam. Chief Secretary Lee was the city’s security chief during the 2019 protests and is known for his support of the police force during the protests and his tough stance against protesters.
The leader of Hong Kong was elected by a committee consisting of legislators, representatives of various industries and professions, and pro-Beijing representatives, such as Hong Kong deputies in the Chinese legislature. An unfulfilled demand of the 2019 protests was the direct election of the city’s chief executive.
Elections for chief executive were scheduled for March 27, but the city was postponed until May 8 because of its worst coronavirus outbreak.
Lam said holding the election as initially scheduled would pose a “public health risk” even if a committee of only 1,462 people was involved.
Hong Kong reported about 1.2 million cases, 99% driven by highly transmissible Omicron variant during the fifth wave. This has forced the healthcare system, with hospitals occasionally putting patients out of bed. The recent outbreak has killed about 8,000 people, and power-operated mortuaries have used frozen containers to temporarily store dead bodies.
Lam’s government has been widely criticized for its flip-flop policy, with mixed messages in February and March on whether lockdowns and mandatory public examinations would be implemented. Uncertainty has created panic among residents, who have cleared shop shelves to store daily necessities.
The mandatory mass testing plan was scrapped, and Lam last week urged all residents to test themselves with a quick antigen kit between April 8 and 10. He later said that the practice was voluntary because it was not possible to implement it.
Lam, 64, has previously served as chief secretary and development secretary, as well as other civil service officials. He earned the nickname “Good Warrior” for his tough stance and refusal to back down in the political battle.
Lam relinquished his British citizenship in 2007 when he was appointed Secretary of Development. Her husband and two children retain their British citizenship.
So reported from Singapore. AP author Ken Maritsugu contributed from Beijing.