Hong Kong’s No. 2 official resigns, seen as the city’s next leader | Government and politics

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HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s No. 2 official and staunch supporter of a Beijing-backed crackdown on pro-democracy activists tendered his resignation on Wednesday as he expected him to announce his intentions to run for the highest post in the semi-autonomous territory.

John Lee, who is the city’s chief secretary for administration, has tendered his resignation to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, according to a government statement.

Lam said on Monday she would not seek a second term as chief executive, after five turbulent years punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a crackdown on political freedoms and Beijing’s growing influence in the territory.

Local media, including the main daily South China Morning Post, reported that Lee would be the only candidate to be endorsed by the Chinese government in the Hong Kong leadership race. He is expected to announce his candidacy when his resignation is approved by central authorities later on Wednesday.

The city’s next leader will be chosen on May 8 by a committee of about 1,500 people, a majority of whom are pro-Beijing.

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Lee, a former career cop, was named chief secretary in June and previously served as Lam’s secretary for security. He was a strong supporter of a police crackdown on protesters during several months of massive anti-government protests in 2019.

After protests were snuffed out, Lee lent his support to the national security law, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 as a way to target pro-democracy activists and supporters. More than 150 people were arrested under the law, which prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in city affairs.

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