Hong Kong's Carrie Lam Is Stepping Down

Her popularity declined during crackdown over pro-democracy protests
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2022 6:33 AM CDT
Hong Kong's Unpopular Leader Is Leaving
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is stepping down.   (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Monday she would not seek a second term after a rocky five years marked by huge protests calling for her resignation, a security crackdown that has quashed dissent, and most recently a COVID-19 wave that overwhelmed the health system. Her successor will be picked in May, and the city's security chief during the 2019 protests is among the possible choices, per the AP. Speculation had swirled for months about whether Lam would seek another term, but she said that her decision had been conveyed to the central government in Beijing last year and was met with “respect and understanding.”

Lam presided over a period in which Beijing firmly established control over the former British colony that was returned to China in 1997. For years, the city rocked back and forth between calls for more freedom and growing signs of China extending its reach into the city, even after Hong Kong was promised 50 years of freedom to govern itself semi-autonomously from the mainland. Lam’s popularity sharply declined over her five-year term, particularly over legislation that would have allowed crime suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial and later over her leadership during the 2019 protests. The demonstrations were marked at times by violent clashes between police and protesters.

Hong Kong media say the city's No. 2 leader John Lee is likely to enter the race to succeed Lam. Chief Secretary Lee was the city’s head of security during the 2019 protests and is known for his support for the police force during the protests and his tough stance against protesters. Hong Kong’s leader is elected by a committee made up of lawmakers, representatives of various industries and professions, and pro-Beijing representatives such as Hong Kong deputies to the China’s legislature. One of the unfulfilled demands of the 2019 protests was direct election of the city’s chief executive. (The US previously sanctioned Lam.)

(More Carrie Lam stories.)

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