Hong Kong’s former chief secretary John Lee has said he intends to enter the chief executive race next month if Beijing accepts his resignation.

John Lee
John Lee meets the press on April 6, 2021. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

The 64-year-old confirmed media reports that he hoped to throw his hat into the ring for the city’s leadership on Wednesday afternoon, around two hours after the office of the current leader Carrie Lam confirmed he had quit from his position as Hong Kong’s No. 2 official.

His bid to become the fifth chief executive since the city’s handover to China in 1997 was subject to Beijing’s approval of his resignation, Lee said during a media briefing that lasted less than five minutes. He did not take any questions from reporters.

“If my resignation is approved by the Central People’s Government, I shall plan to prepare to stand for the upcoming Chief Executive Election,” he said, adding he would inform the public of his next move if Beijing accepted his decision to quit.

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The nomination period of the small-circle chief executive race opened last Sunday. Leadership hopefuls must secure at least 15 nominations before April 16 from each of the five sectors in the Election Committee to be in the running. They will also undergo national security vetting to ensure only patriots lead the city, in accordance with last year’s sweeping electoral overhaul.

The committee – which currently has 1,462 members – will decide who to lead Hong Kong for the next five years on May 8. Lee is reportedly the only potential candidate with the backing of the central authorities, according to local media reports, citing sources.

Lee served as the chief secretary for less than a year after he was promoted last June to replace Matthew Cheung. It marked the first time a former police officer from the security branch of the government was handed the second highest-ranked position in the administration.

He joined the government in 2012, when then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying appointed him as the deputy commissioner. He was made the chief of the the Security Bureau when Lam took office in 2017. Before that, he climbed up the ladder in the police force starting as a probationary inspector in 1977 and landing the position as the deputy commissioner in 2010.

John Lee
John Lee. File photo: GovHK.

Public satisfaction with Lee as chief secretary stood at 34.8 out of 100, according to a recent poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. The score was the lowest since he assumed the position last June.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Lee thanked Lam for the opportunities she had provided him, and politically-appointed officials. He also extended gratitude to lawmakers, government boards and committees and civil servants.

“I thank the people of Hong Kong. Having been in the government for over 40 years to serve the people of Hong Kong is a glory,” Lee said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.