Xi looms large for Hong Kong’s leaders

Hong Kong’s top officials are rushing to embrace Xi Jinping, China’s leader, a performance of devotion that is a jarring shift for Hong Kong’s once rambunctious political culture.

On his first full day in office, Hong Kong’s new leader, John Lee, shared a picture of himself alongside a printout of what he described as an important speech by Xi. The city’s lawmakers held a six-hour session this month lauding Xi’s recent visit to Hong Kong. And hundreds of top officials have attended group study sessions, including one titled “Spirit of the President’s Important Speech.”

Such displays of devotion — common in mainland China — represent a major change in the former British colony that was granted a high degree of autonomy when it was returned to Chinese control 25 years ago. Hong Kong has long had to abide by Beijing’s decisions over major issues, but the bureaucracy’s embrace of Xi has crystallized its new identity as a territory firmly in Beijing’s grip.

Context: The embrace of Xi is also a sign of the weakness of the local government. Lee, who spent nearly his entire career with the police and the security service, lacks the sort of broad network his predecessors brought to the job through lengthy experience in the civil service or in business.

28-VII-22, nytimes