As Hong Kong gradually learns to live with COVID, reopening the China border has remained one of its major goals, especially for the city’s next leader, John Lee, who vowed to put easing border controls at the highest priority in his campaign.
But when Lee recently visited Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reportedly told Lee that Hong Kong should “do the best we can to control the pandemic.” In response, Lee told him that the city would have to overcome “a lot of challenges and difficulties” before travel with China could resume.
With that, Lee will likely be facing pressure on a number of topics from both China and the business community in managing the city’s COVID rules after he officially takes office on July 1 – the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
“I explained to him that there have been many requests for us to consider resuming travel with the mainland, but there are a lot of challenges and difficulties we need to overcome,” said John Lee, former security chief and Hong Kong’s next leader, referring to his conversation with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang about re-opening the China border. “I’ve indicated that when I assume office, I will start seeking communication with the mainland side so as to explain the Hong Kong situation to them.”
“You love the country and love Hong Kong, and you were firm, devoted and proactive in fulfilling your duties in different positions,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping to John Lee, referring to his career as a policeman and role as security chief who oversaw the response to the protests in 2019. “You also made contributions to safeguarding national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. The central government fully acknowledges this and fully trusts you.”