Hong Kong’s next leader John Lee travelled to Beijing on Saturday to receive the central government’s blessing as he prepares to take office in a month.
Lee, 64, a former security chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, was chosen as the next chief executive by a small committee of Beijing loyalists in early May.
He was the sole candidate in the race and received 99 percent of the vote, after China remoulded Hong Kong’s electoral system in 2021 to ensure anyone deemed unpatriotic would be ineligible to run.
As part of a four-day trip, Lee will be officially appointed and is expected to meet with top Chinese leaders, according to local media.
The South China Morning Post reported that Lee is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, and will present a list of his team for approval.
The incoming chief executive will have to undergo testing and quarantine over the weekend, and will not be able to meet outsiders during his trip, the report said.
Lee will assume office on July 1, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer from British to Chinese rule and the halfway point of the “One Country, Two Systems” political model.
It is not yet confirmed whether Xi will visit Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary celebrations, which will be seen as a symbolic endorsement of Lee’s new administration.
Such a trip would also mark the first time he has travelled outside the Chinese mainland since the pandemic began.
In July 2017, Xi attended the swearing-in of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as part of a three-day trip, which also included a visit to the local Chinese army barracks.
But the protests that accompanied Xi’s 2017 trip are not likely to be repeated this year, after Beijing imposed a national security law that has clamped down on dissent.
More than 10,000 police officers will be deployed in the event a Chinese leader does visit Hong Kong, local publication Eastweek magazine reported.
Local authorities are also finding ways to protect Xi against the risk of coronavirus infection, as both Hong Kong and China remain committed to a zero-Covid strategy.
Xi may opt for a day trip or scrap the visit entirely if new coronavirus outbreaks are found, according to the Wall Street Journal.