Timeline of Hong Kong politics ahead of chief executive election on May 8

Updated: May 08, 2022, 12:08 PM(IST)

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

John Lee, a former top cop and security chief, 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 inherits a city that was convulsed by huge democracy protests followed by a crackdown on political freedoms and more than two years of pandemic curbs that have left residents and businesses isolated from the rest of the world.

Let's take a look at the timeline of the financial hub's politics:


In 1984, Deng Xiaoping successfully negotiated an agreement with the British government to return Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, the year Britain's 99-year lease on much of the territory was to expire.

"One country, two systems", conceived by Deng and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,  was intended to let Hong Kong keep its free-market economy and internationally-respected legal system, with the exception of foreign affairs and defence.



Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997 after 155 years of British rule. The transfer of sovereignty is known commonly as "the handover."

Then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, Prince Charles, and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair attended the ceremony.



Hong Kong residents headed to the polls in May 1998, where they voted in the city's first elections for its legislature under Chinese rule. Democrats celebrated a strong victory, winning as many as 14 seats in the new 60-member Legislative Council, or LegCo.



Donald Tsang was declared winner in the Hong Kong leadership race in 2005. Tsang, a veteran civil servant was elected as the city's next leader unopposed.

He secured an overwhelming number of nominations from a pro-Beijing electoral college of 796 people that chooses the territory's next chief executive.



In March of 2012, an election committee of about 1,200 picked Beijing loyalist Leung Chun-ying as the city's third leader after the handover. Most of Hong Kong's 7 million residents had no say in who would become their next chief executive.

Meanwhile, activists and opposition politicians were campaigning for the city's residents to have a greater say in the choice of their leader.



Thousands of protesters took to the streets to denounce the city government's planned anti-subversion law on July 1, 2003.

Brandishing banners, umbrellas and fans, many of the people dressed in black to mourn what they said was the demise of rights and freedoms in one of the world's key financial centres.

Critics of the law, commonly known in Hong Kong as 'Article 23,' said it posed a threat to basic rights in the former British colony. The bill was shelved after the demonstration and Hong Kong's then chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, later resigned citing health reasons.



China's legislature, the National People's Congress, declared on August 31, 2014, that any candidate for Hong Kong's leader would have to get majority backing from an election committee stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists, as well as imposing other conditions that some in the city's opposition deemed "fake, China-style democracy".

The nomination conditions effectively made it impossible for opposition figures to get on the ballot and proved to be a trigger for the 2014 "Occupy Movement" protests, also known as the Umbrella Revolution.



A series of demonstrations that lasted for 79 days called the "Occupy Movement" started on September 26, 2014, with protesters paralysing parts of Hong Kong.

The movement was seen as one of the biggest challenges to China's ruling communist party in decades.



Hong Kong's current leader Carrie Lam was sworned in on July 1, 2017 with warning that Beijing would not tolerate any challenge to its authority in a strongly-worded speech to mark the 20th anniversary of the former British colony's return to China.

Lam was elected as Hong Kong's next leader by the 1,200-member election committee stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists.



A million strong protesters, according to organisers, filled the streets of Hong Kong on June 9, 2019 in a bid to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial.

The extradition bill was seen by many as a threat to the rule of law in the former British colony. Riot police armed with batons, shields, water pistols and pepper spray sealed off the Legislative Council as protesters refuse to disperse. Police later said some had charged at the police cordons.



Social distancing rules imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus increasingly put the brakes on mass protests in early 2020. On May 28, 2020 China's parliament overwhelmingly approved imposing national security legislation on Hong Kong to punish what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces with up to life in prison.



Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law, and detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces. Police officers also raided the newsroom of his Apple Daily tabloid newspaper, Hong Kong's most vocal pro-democracy publication. Lai was among the most high profile arrests made under the sweeping law.



Lawmakers in Hong Kong's new "patriots only" legislature were sworn in on January 3, 2022, in a ceremony overseen by Carrie Lam and under China's national emblem, where the city's traditional insignia was once affixed.


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