Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam announced Monday that she will not seek a new term in office.
The decision comes as Lam prepares to end her current five-year term during which she faced major anti-government protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The territory’s next leader is expected to be chosen in May. The position is elected by a committee of lawmakers, industry members and legislative representatives loyal to the government in Beijing.
Hong Kong media have reported that Lam’s Chief Secretary, John Lee, is likely to enter the race to succeed her. Lee started his career as a police officer and rose to become the deputy chief of police in 2010. He served as Hong Kong’s secretary of security during anti-government protests in 2019.
The election for the chief executive had been set for March 27. But it was postponed until May 8 as the city deals with a new rise in COVID-19 infections.
At a news conference, the 64-year-old Lam said, “I will complete my five-year term as chief executive on the 30th of June this year, and I will also call an end to my 42 years of public service.”
She added that her main reason for deciding not to run again was her family. “I have told everyone before that family is my first priority. They think it’s time for me to go home.”
Lam was born in British-ruled Hong Kong in 1957. She is a life-long government worker who describes herself as an active Catholic. She took office in 2017 with a promise to unite the city. People in Hong Kong were growing increasingly concerned with moves by the government in Beijing to strengthen its political control over the territory.
Two years later, millions of democracy supporters took to the streets of Hong Kong in sometimes violent anti-government protests. The unrest led to China approving a national security law in 2020. The law calls for offenses like subversion and secession to be punished with sentences up to life in prison.
Critics of the law say it seeks to silence dissent and crush freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it passed to Chinese control in 1997. Rights of the territory’s citizens were to be guaranteed under its Basic Law for 50 years. Supporters of the national security law say it has brought stability to Hong Kong.
In 2020, the United States placed sanctions on Lam, Lee and other Hong Kong officials for supporting the national security law.
Lam was also heavily criticized for supporting a proposed extradition bill supported by China’s government. That legislation, which was later withdrawn, would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters and The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.
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Words in This Story
committee – n. a group of people chosen to represent a larger organization and make decisions for it
priority – n. something considered very important that must be dealt with before other things
secession – n. the act of becoming independent and no longer part of a country, area, organization, etc.
stability – n. the quality of not being likely to change or move