The “selection” of John Lee as the new chief executive is “part of a continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms” in Hong Kong, top diplomats of the G7 said on Monday.
Lee, a former security chief considered close to Beijing, oversaw a crackdown on mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019, while also backing the imposition of a new national security law in 2020 that has all but barred political dissent in the semiautonomous region.
He was blacklisted by the US for his role in crushing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Lee, 64, secured more than 1,400 votes from the nearly 1,500-member Election Committee in a secret ballot on Sunday.
He will take office on July 1, replacing Carrie Lam, who served as Hong Kong’s chief executive since 2017.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US, along with the EU foreign policy chief, expressed “grave concern over the selection process.”
“The current nomination process and resulting appointment are a stark departure from the aim of universal suffrage and further erode the ability of Hong Kongers to be legitimately represented,” read the statement.
“We are deeply concerned about this steady erosion of political and civil rights and Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
– ‘Cover to meddle in China’s internal affairs’
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism over the electoral process for Hong Kong’s new leader.
“The election was conducted in a fair, just and orderly fashion in accordance with laws and regulations. The result fully demonstrates that the new electoral system is democratic, advanced,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing.
Western powers’ rush to “criticize, attack and smear the process and result of the election … fully exposes their true face of using democracy and freedom as a cover to meddle in China’s internal affairs and undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” he said.
He called them out for “supporting fake democracy featuring pan-politicization and rampant violence,” saying they were “agitated by true democracy that suits Hong Kong’s realities.”
“I would like to stress that Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region and its election as well as the result is purely China’s internal affair, on which foreign forces are in no position to make wanton comments,” Zhao asserted.