Hong Kong's incoming leader vows to restore city's former glory

Hong Kong's incoming leader vows to restore city's former glory

Hong Kong's next leader unveiled a manifesto Friday, vowing to restore the business hub to its former glory, but wouldn't be drawn on until the city might discard zero-Covid controls that have left it internationally cut off.

A former top cop and security chief, John Lee, is expected to be appointed Hong Kong's new chief executive by a committee of some 1,500 Beijing loyalists on May 8.

He faces no competition but will inherit a city ravaged by huge democracy protests, an ongoing crackdown on political freedoms and more than two years of anti-pandemic curbs that have left residents and businesses isolated across the globe.

Lee told reporters when asked when Hong Kong would reopen to the world that Covid is not going to live with us forever, at some point it will be under control.

He said that it is important to do a good balancing act.

The single major economy in China is still stuck to the zero-tolerance strategy even though the highly transmissible Omicron variant breaks through those defences and forces painful restrictions on both Hong Kong and the mainland.

Hong Kong is at the end of a deadly Omicron wave, killing some 9,000 residents and sparking an exodus from the city's business community.

Lee said on Friday that his 44-sided manifesto will guide his attempt to restore Hong Kong's sheen when he takes over from outgoing leader Carrie Lam on July 1, the 25th anniversary of the city's handover by Britain to China.

Despite the slogan Starting a new chapter for Hong Kong, Lee's policies so far indicate minimal change from the current Beijing-led course under Lam's administration.

Lee, 64, is a key figure in the suppression of huge democracy protests and is among 11 top Hong Kong and Beijing officials sanctioned by the United States.

He pledged Friday that a host of new national security crimes will be outlawed in local legislation, bolstering the already sweeping law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 that was designed to quash dissent.

He said that the efforts to cultivate a new generation that loves the country and Hong Kong will continue.

Lee identified the chronic shortage of affordable housing as a key area that his administration needed to address, as well as other chief executives since the handover.

Hong Kong has long held the title of the world's most unaffordable housing market, according to a study this year showing that the median property price is 23 times the median household income.

After all the big debates on land use, it's time for execution, Lee said, vowing to build more housing as well as speed up and streamline land sales.