Beijing has accepted the resignation of Hong Kong’s former chief secretary John Lee, meaning that the 64-year-old is clear to enter the city’s leadership race in May.

China’s State Council announced on Friday that it would remove Lee from his post as the city’s second highest ranking government official on the recommendation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

John Lee. File photo: GovHK.

The announcement came two days after Lee handed his resignation to Lam. The former chief secretary told the press on Wednesday that he intended to enter the chief executive race next month provided his resignation was accepted by Beijing.

The nomination period for 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. 

Lee became only the fourth government official since the handover in 1997 to resign and join the small-circle race. Other candidates in previous chief executive races included former lawmakers Alan Leong, Albert Ho, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, and Leung Chun-ying, who became the city’s leader in 2012.

It took Beijing two days to accept former chief secretary Henry Tang’s resignation in 2012; four days for Lam, when she resigned as chief secretary in 2017; and over 30 days for John Tsang, when he submitted his resignation in December 2016.

Following last year’s sweeping electoral overhaul, candidates will have to undergo security vetting. The city’s next leader will then be chosen by the Election Committee, whose 1,462 members were vetted by a committee led by Lee.

File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Some of the city’s largest property developers expressed their support for Lee on Thursday, including co-chairperson of Henderson Land Development Martin Lee, CEO of New World Development Adrian Cheng, Chairperson of CK Hutchison Holdings Victor Li, and chairperson of Sun Hung Kai Properties Raymond Kwok.

No notice yet on replacement

The government has not announced a replacement for Lee as chief secretary. Lam said on Friday that she has “yet to receive any notice” on the appointment of an acting chief secretary.

“I have yet to receive any notice on the central government’s arrangement of the appointment of a principal official, or an acting arrangement to handle less than three months’ work of the chief secretary,” said the chief executive.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.