Western Multinationals Congratulate Hong Kong’s New Leader

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by Jerome Taylor & Su Xinqi

Western multinationals and local tycoons published newspaper adverts congratulating John Lee on becoming Hong Kong’s next leader, following a rubber-stamp selection process decried as anti-democratic by many major economies Monday. Breaking News

Lee, 64, a former security chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, was anointed the business hub’s new leader on Sunday in a near-unanimous vote by a small committee of Beijing loyalists.

He was the sole candidate in the race to succeed outgoing leader Carrie Lam at a time when Hong Kong is being remoulded in China’s authoritarian image.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States on Monday joined the European Union in voicing alarm.

“We… underscore our grave concern over the selection process for the Chief Executive in Hong Kong as part of a continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms,” the G7 group said in a joint statement with the EU.

Beijing hailed the process as “a real demonstration of democratic spirit” and said it was the culmination of a strategy to ensure only “patriots” run Hong Kong.

  • Corporate congratulations –
    Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, two newspapers that answer to the office which sets Beijing’s Hong Kong policy, were filled with adverts on Monday from leading companies and business figures praising Lee’s selection.

Most were from Chinese and Hong Kong businesses as well as community organisations.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

The “Big Four” accountancy firms — KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC — were among Western multinationals placing adverts, as were city airline Cathay Pacific and conglomerates Swire and Jardine Matheson.

Messages were also carried by Hong Kong’s family tycoon-dominated property giants, including Sun Hung Kai and Henderson Land Development.

Western businesses have found themselves in an increasingly precarious position in Hong Kong, especially as tensions have risen with China.

Many have embraced progressive political causes in Western markets, such as the anti-racism Black Lives Matter movement, same-sex equality and ridding supply chains of labour abuses.

But they usually steer clear of any criticism of China’s policies towards hotspots such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan.

Some companies such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, Swire and Jardine Matheson publicly backed Beijing’s national security law, which was imposed on Hong Kong after 2019’s democracy protests to curb dissent.

  • Can Hong Kong reopen? –
    The elevation of Lee, who is under US sanctions, places a security official in Hong Kong’s top job for the first time after a tumultuous few years for a city battered by political unrest and economically debilitating pandemic controls.

Despite the city’s mini-constitution promising universal suffrage, Hong Kong has never been a democracy, the source of years of protests since the 1997 handover from Britain to China.

Lee won 99 percent of the votes cast by the 1,461-strong committee that picks the city’s leader.

The former police officer has vowed to strengthen Hong Kong’s national security and integrate the city further with the mainland.

He wants to reboot the city’s economy and slowly reopen its pandemic-sealed borders at a time when its rivals have moved to living with the coronavirus.

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But it is unclear how he can do that given China has doubled down on its strict zero-Covid strategy.

On Monday morning, Lam met her successor and both gave short speeches stressing that they would prepare for an orderly transition.

Lee, who takes over on July 1, was Lam’s security chief and then her deputy.

He was asked by reporters whether Hong Kongers could criticise his administration or risk being arrested for “speech crimes” like dozens of democracy activists in recent years.

Lee took umbrage at that description.

“I think you are very wrong to describe that people are now charged simply because of their expressed opinions,” he said.

“People are brought to court because of the suspicion against them and their actions contravening the law,” he added. “It is their action.”

Lee said his first port of call would be China’s top agencies in Hong Kong — the Liaison Office, the national security committee, the foreign ministry’s office and the People’s Liberation Army garrison.


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Notes from APS Radio News

During the past few years, lockdowns and quarantines have been imposed over a virus that has had a mortality rate similar to that of the seasonal flu.

According to Statista, an award-winning servic e that compiles and analyzes statistics and data for corporations and governments around the world, in the US, for example, the average mortality rate of the virus has been about .07%.

In previous years, when the seasonal flu was still being recorded, it was noted that the mortality rate of influenza could be as high as .13%.

As well, it’s been reported that for most age groups the recovery rate is about 99%.

Yet, lockdowns and stringent measures were implemented during the past few years, causing the shuttering of businesses considered non-essential.

For example, in the US, up to 45% of jobs are or were created by small businesses.

Many small businesses closed, many for good, as a result of lockdowns.

Also, as a result of quarantines and such, shortages of various goods and supplies developed.

The combination of massive programs of quantitative easing—the US Federal Reserver, for one, increased its holdings by about 4.1 trillion dollars in the space of about two years—low interest rates and shortages, some of which recently have been brought about by sanctions imposed against Russian exports like petroleum, have produced record levels of inflation.

In recent weeks, because of record levels of inflation, Mr. Jerome Powell, Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, expressed some concern, in contrast to his statements of only several months ago when he dismissed concerns about inflation, about inflation.

As a result, the Federal Reserve and a number of other central banks around the world, for example, the Bank of England, have been increasing interest rates, albeit in terms of incremental amounts.

In general, China has enacted some of the world’s harshest lockdowns and quarantines, and despite some protests and clashes in Shanghai, that city has reimposed strict lockdowns over a virus not much deadlier than the common cold.

Some commentators have offered what critics call a “dark” theory of these happenings.

They talk about a world reset implemented by the world’s leaders.

Whether such talk is “radical” or outlandish, many find it difficult to deny that the world’s economy and social and political relationships have been upturned since the early months of 2020.

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