Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive John Lee is focused on security throughout his career and is “not audited” elsewhere, according to the CEO of consultancy.
“It is a blank slate for many people in the community. That makes him flexible, I think, ”said David Dodwell of Strategic Access.
“But it means how he will manage is probably not sure … than any leadership we have had in the last 25 years,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.
Lee, a faithful Beijing and the only candidate in Hong Kong, won a majority of votes in Sunday’s election.
“His whole life has been centered on security issues, first for the police and then for the security secretary here in Hong Kong. In particular, he has not been tested and is unknown, in some areas, ”said Dodwell.
Lee’s way of governing Hong Kong will depend on the group gathered around him, he added.
Michael Tien, a Hong Kong attorney who said he had voted for Lee in Sunday’s election, told CNBC that a little knowledge of the next official would be a good thing.
“The weakness people see in John Lee is that he has always been just safe and seems to have very little experience in any other public administration,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Monday.
“On the other hand, it can also be powerful if he can change that and be open-minded by listening to others,” Tien said.
The Hong Kong government has not yet responded to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Hong Kong government said on Sunday 1,416 members of Beijing’s most supportive electoral committee voted for Lee. 1,428 votes were cast in a secret ballot – giving Lee more than 99% of the vote.
Lee will begin his five-year term on July 1, taking over from chief executive Carrie Lam.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China governed under the framework of “one country, two systems”. The city has limited electoral rights and its legal and economic system is very different from the continent.
Last year, Hong Kong’s electoral system made major changes, and Beijing said only those so-called “extremists” should be allowed to run the city.
“It is a great thing” to describe Hong Kong’s vote as a “real election” compared to the Philippine elections, Dodwell said.
Philippines held its presidential election on Monday when more than 67 million voters registered to participate. By comparison, the Hong Kong electoral committee has about 1,500 1,500 members who can cast their ballots on Sunday.
Voters are “carefully selected as patriotic activists,” and the result is “not surprising,” he said.
Tien said the Hong Kong plan was “exactly like the continent” now, but said the number of opposition votes was important.
“If you collect surprisingly high opposition votes, that means you are not doing a good job,” he said.
Eight votes against Lee indicate that there are still uncertain people, Tien said, adding that it was something Lee should be aware of.
Dodwell said the new leader would have to address the divisions that lie in “Hong Kong,” which have not yet been removed.
The past few years have been marked by political upheaval in Hong Kong, particularly in 2019 when the democratic protests over the revoked repatriation bill turned violent.
China passed Hong Kong’s national security law in 2020. The law is aimed at preventing divisions, the overthrow of state power, terrorist activities and foreign interference, according to Lam. The US and UK, however, said the law would undermine the city’s independence.
“We have a very diverse society between those who feel patriotic and those who are concerned about the loss of various security institutions,” he said.
Dodwell also said that former Hong Kong leaders had failed to address “basic social problems” in the city such as jobs and housing.
In Hong Kong, the perception of coming out, reaching out, shaking hands and listening to the mass is important, particularly when it’s a one-person race …Michael TienHong, Kong lawmaker
“I think that is one of the reasons why John Lee says he will lead managers who are focused on results. “People will expect some success soon,” he said.
Tien said Lee should “get out and get closer to the people and the crowd,” which Lam has failed to do in recent years.
“In Hong Kong, the idea of going out, extending a hand, shaking hands and listening to a lot of people is important, especially if it’s a one-man race and the result is guaranteed,” Tien said.
Commenting to the media after the vote on Sunday, Lee said last month, he met many people, including members of the public, and received tens of thousands of messages and suggestions.
“They have deepened my understanding of the various problems facing our society, and that people are hopeful that the government can do more,” he added.