Chinese leader Xi Jinping has praised Hong Kong’s Chief Executive-elect John Lee as patriotic, saying the incoming administration will “write a new chapter” for the city’s development.

John Lee Xi Jinping flag
Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee (left) meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping on May 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

In a meeting with Lee in Beijing on Monday, Xi described the former chief secretary who landed the leadership role unopposed earlier this month as “resolute, daring to take responsibility and proactive.” The Chinese president said Lee made contributions to safeguarding national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity when he took up different positions in the government.

“You have a firm stance in loving your country and Hong Kong,” Xi told Lee. “The Central government fully endorses you and fully trusts [you].”

Xi then pointed to Hong Kong’s electoral system, which was revamped last May to ensure only “patriots” hold power. The overhaul reduced directly elected seats in the legislature and imposed a national security vetting system on election candidates. The Chinese leader said the changes were aligned with the “one country, two systems” policy and should “persist for the long run.”

John Lee Xi Jinping
Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee (left) meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping on May 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

Lee will be sworn in on July 1, when Hong Kong marks 25 years since its handover from Britain to China. Xi said that while the city had faced “many challenges” throughout the years, the implementation of one country, two systems has “achieved universally recognised success.” Hong Kong managed to recover from chaos and was currently at a critical stage of moving towards prosperity, he added.

“I believe that the governance of the new SAR government will definitely showcase a new ambience. Hong Kong’s development will definitely write a new chapter,” Xi said.

Hours before meeting Xi, Lee was officially endorsed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who presented a State Council letter to officially appoint the former security minister as the sixth chief executive of Hong Kong.

The ex-security minister thanked the support of the Central government, saying it was his “lifelong honour” to lead Hong Kong. He pledged to govern the city with “loyalty and perseverance,” as well as uniting Hongkongers from all sectors to “strive for the well-being of Hong Kong and its people.”

John Lee Li Keqiang
Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee (left) meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on May 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

“I am deeply honoured by the appointment and fully aware of the great responsibility upon me. I will do my utmost to live up to the expectations of the country and the people of Hong Kong,” Lee said.

“Together, we will build Hong Kong into a city with long-term prosperity and a caring and inclusive society,” he added.

According to a news clip published by local media, Vice-Premier Han Zheng officiated the ceremony. Lee’s wife, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Office Xia Baolong and State Councillor Xiao Jie attended the event.

Lee is set to meet Xia on Tuesday before returning to Hong Kong.

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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.