Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled leader, announced on Monday that she will not seek re-election to a second five-year term in office, after governing the global financial hub through unparalleled upheaval in the form of anti-government protests and COVID-19.

Lam’s declaration came as media reported that Hong Kong’s second most senior official, Chief Secretary John Lee, was planning to resign to run for the Chinese-ruled city’s next leader in May.

“There is only one thing that matters, and that is family.” “I’ve told everyone before that my primary focus is my family,” Lam said at a routine press conference.

“They believe it is time for me to return home,” says the narrator.
She refused to comment on potential replacement candidates and stated that she had not made up her mind about her future plans.
Lam, a lifelong civil servant who identifies herself as a devoted Catholic and was born in British-ruled Hong Kong in 1957, assumed office in 2017 with a promise to unite a city that was growing increasingly resentful of Beijing’s expanding grasp.

Millions of pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets in sometimes violent anti-government rallies two years later. As a result of the upheaval, Beijing enacted a broad national security law in June 2020, giving it greater power than ever to control Hong Kong’s future.

At the height of the turmoil in 2019, an exasperated Lam declared that if she had the choice, she would resign, adding that the chief executive “had to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong” in remarks to a gathering of business people.

According to an audio clip acquired by Reuters, she said, “Political room for manoeuvre is very, very, very small.”

Lam said on Monday that she had suggested a government reform to mainland authorities, which would include new policy agencies, but that the plan’s implementation would be up to the city’s next leader.

City leaders are chosen by a small electoral committee loaded with Beijing supporters, ensuring that whoever takes over as the former British colony’s next leader does so with Beijing’s blessing.

Lee, 64, was a security official during the long and frequently violent 2019 pro-democracy rallies, and was elevated in 2021, signaling Beijing’s renewed priority on security rather than the economy, according to some commentators.
Lee did not respond to a request for comment right away.

Former leader Leung Chun-ying and the city’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, are two more prospective candidates suggested in the media. No one has made an official bid yet.

In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to Chinese authority with a 50-year guarantee of broad freedoms, including an independent court and the right to public assembly.

Both Lam and Lee, as well as other officials, were sanctioned by the US in 2020, claiming that they had undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy from Beijing and curtailed political freedoms with the national security law, which punishes offenses like subversion and secession with up to life in prison.

Individual rights are not being lost, according to Chinese and Hong Kong officials, who claim that the security law was necessary to restore the stability required for economic growth following the lengthy turmoil.

The leadership election was postponed from March to May 8 to give the authorities more time to combat a COVID outbreak that has infected over a million of the city’s 7.4 million residents. Lam’s term is set to finish on June 30.

Since its restoration to Chinese administration, Hong Kong has had four chief administrators, each of whom has battled to reconcile the democratic and liberal aspirations of many citizens with the Communist Party’s goal.

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