Law & Order

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Gangsters beat up and robbed John Lee Ka-chiu when he was a boy growing up 50 years ago in Hong Kong public housing. Now the man whom Chinese leaders in Beijing have tapped to lead the free-market-oriented metropolis recalled how his childhood has taught him “the importance of law and order,” according to the South China Morning Post.

There is little doubt that Lee will win the May 8 vote that involves almost 1,500 members of the city’s Election Committee selecting their next chief executive. He is the only candidate approved by central government authorities. Barring a surprise, no one else will be considered.

Known for his tough stance against pro-democracy protesters, Lee, a former policeman, said he would enact local security laws that lawmakers have failed to pass in the past due to massive protests against them, the Associated Press reported. The issue has been paramount to Chinese officials’ concerns. In 2020, after months of anti-government protests against such rules, Chinese officials forced Hong Kong to adopt a national security law that has come to symbolize the Chinese central government’s increasing control over the global business center and former British colony, as Amnesty International explained.

In a story on outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Bloomberg spoke to Hong Kong Baptist University Political Scientist Kenneth Cha, who said the national security law was part of Lam’s legacy of eroding democracy and the city’s independence. “We have…witnessed the biggest falls in confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” Chan said, alluding to the city’s special semi-autonomous status within China. “She (Lam) has dealt fatal blows to the core values of the city – the rule of law, civil liberties, political rights, democracy and global outlooks – due to her total reliance on Beijing.”

Lam cracked down on pro-democracy activists after bungling the city’s response to demonstrations. That crackdown continues. For example, one activist/DJ was recently sentenced to 40 months in jail for “seditious words,” noted the Guardian. According to Voice of America, Hong Kong jails are “using ‘brainwashing’ measures to ‘deradicalize’ jailed pro-democracy protesters” – allegations that echo reports of Chinese reeducation camps for members of the Uyghur Muslim community. But a high-profile collection of five jailed activists are now in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize, too, wrote the Hong Kong Free Press, an English-language newspaper.

Lee, who was Lam’s number two, has said he will focus on quality of life issues like housing and other services when he becomes chief executive, Reuters reported.

Those plans sound nice. Lee should not assume everything will go so orderly, however.

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