The new Chinese boss in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s elected Chief Executive John Lee speaks during a press conference at the Central Government Complex in Hong Kong on May 9.


Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A measure of authoritarian “democracy” is when the winner wins nearly all of the votes. This is the story of John Lee’s victory this weekend as Hong Kong’s new chief executive.

Mr. Lee “was finally elected with 99% of the votes”, said the Chinese office for Hong Kong and Macau a statement after the election. “It completely shows that Hong Kong recognizes him highly.”

Self-awareness is not a hallmark of Chinese propaganda. Even Russia and Belarus are more modest about the margins of victory as they stage rigged elections.

Hong Kong’s Basic Law states that “the ultimate aim is the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage”, but the chief executive has long been chosen by an electoral committee, not by direct election. The Chinese Communist Party has disqualified pro-democracy candidates from holding office, and Mr. Lee was the only candidate in this election.

Candidates from Beijing have long dominated the election committee. But until recently, the pro-democracy camp could at least aspire to enough seats to serve as a tie-breaker among pro-Beijing candidates and demand concessions or prevent the worst candidates from becoming chief executive. That changed after 2019, when Hong Kongers voted overwhelmingly for pro-democracy district councilors.

These district councilors were supposed to control 117 votes on the 1,200-member election committee, with other pro-democracy candidates controlling more. But China reacted to the Hong Kongers’ vote by changing the size and composition of the committee. The new rules exclude district councilors, create more pro-Beijing seats and effectively eliminate any chance Hong Kongers can have a say in who governs them.

Mr. Lee auditioned for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s blessing as Hong Kong’s security chief under former chief executive Carrie Lam. He oversaw the arrest of dozens of opposition leaders and the dismantling of Hong Kong’s free press. He sought Beijing’s approval by denouncing the columns in December after we criticized the crackdown.

In a letter which he made public, he claims our coverage was “a grossly biased misrepresentation of the facts which seriously misleads readers about the situation in Hong Kong”. The facts are specific and clear enough for those he has imprisoned, so that he can enjoy life as a Beijing factotum in the once free territory.

Vladimir Putin attributes his war in Ukraine to a planned assault on Russia led by US-backed neo-Nazis, despite evidence that Putin “now reflects the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago”. Images: Shutterstock/Reuters/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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