FirstFT: Hong Kong’s hardliners join the race to become the city’s next leader

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John Lee, Hong Kong’s second-most senior official, has joined the race to succeed Carrie Lam as head of the Chinese territory, signaling Beijing’s growing focus on security after pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2019.

Lee, a 64-year-old former security minister, resigned as a senior civil servant on Wednesday and is believed to have Beijing’s backing, according to people familiar with the process.

The former police officer is believed to be the first chief executive with a security background since the city was transferred from the UK to China in 1997 and played a significant role in cracking down on opposition following Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law in 2020.

Nearly 200 activists have been arrested and several independent outlets shut down, including the top-selling pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily. More than 10,000 have been arrested since the 2019 protests.

What is your reaction to Lee’s entry into the race for Hong Kong’s general manager position? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected]. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. – Emily

The latest news on the war in Ukraine:

  • Evacuation: Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians in the Donbass region and around Kharkiv to evacuate after Russian forces stepped up their offensive in eastern Ukraine.

  • Punishments: The United States has imposed its toughest level of sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution and its largest private bank. Italy and Spain have led a new round of European expulsions of diplomats from Moscow.

  • Energy: Russian coal producers could struggle to redirect volumes to Asian markets if the EU threatens a total import ban, analysts have said.

  • Debt: Russia moved closer to a potential default on its foreign currency debt after the country’s finance ministry said it was being forced to make payments to holders of its dollar-denominated bonds in roubles.

  • Intelligence: The rapid declassification of information has become a striking feature of the spy community’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.

  • Opinion: Regardless of the outcome of Vladimir Putin’s war, geopolitics is now split between the West and a Sino-Russian Eurasia, writes Edward Luce.

Follow our live blog for the latest news on the conflict and our regularly updated maps follow Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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© FT Montage/Unsplash/Getty Images

2. The Federal Reserve will reduce its balance sheet by $95 billion a month The U.S. central bank is expected to start shedding $95 billion in assets a month from its bloated $9 billion balance sheet as it steps up efforts to rein in soaring inflation in the United States. A report from the last meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee showed officials finalizing a plan to reduce the central bank’s presence in US government bond markets.

3. Toshiba’s second largest shareholder pushes privatization deal 3D Investment Partners is pushing for the company to open talks on a possible private equity sale after it was revealed last week that Bain Capital was set to submit a takeover proposal for the $17 billion Japanese conglomerate of dollars.

4. Sri Lanka repeals state of emergency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ended the state of emergency days after it was imposed as the government struggles to contain an economic and political crisis that has led to widespread protests.

5. Soaring Le Pen polls shake French bonds and bank stocks The risk of a Marine Le Pen victory was highlighted yesterday as polls ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting showed the far-right candidate gaining ground on President Emmanuel Macron. Bank stocks fell and bond spreads between French and German public debt widened.

Summary of coronavirus

The day ahead

world health day The World Health Organization is about to publish its annual report on world health.

G7 foreign ministers’ meeting continues Officials will continue the proceedings in Brussels, where Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is expected to call for tougher unified action and continued sanctions against Russia.

What else we read

The militarization of finance The first in a two-part series on the new era of financial warfare examines how the West unleashed “shock and awe” on the Russian economy, and how sanctions against the country’s central bank have used the omnipresence of the American dollar to penalize an adversary of Washington.

A line graph showing how the West has steadily increased its use of sanctions over the past decades

Hong Kong targets boardroom ‘boys club’ Xiaomi and Meituan may be global leaders in smartphones or online shopping, but China’s biggest companies are falling behind in a global movement to shake up male-only boardrooms. Now, the Hong Kong stock exchange will require its more than 2,500 listed companies to have at least one female board member by 2024.

  • Related reading: In the first edition of our new weekly Working It newsletter, FT’s Sophia Smith delves into the secretive – and thriving – world of alumni networks.

Expats fleeing Hong Kong encounter growing resentment in Singapore As Singapore eases its pandemic measures, it has become the obvious destination for many Hong Kongers. But the city-state’s reputation for openness is undermined by locals who want to clamp down on immigration.

A new kind of media baron is taking over Twitter Elon Musk’s investment in the social media platform and subsequent appointment to the company’s board of directors gives Tesla’s chief executive a unique position and influence normally associated with mainstream press barons. Tech reporters Hannah Murphy and Richard Waters spoke to the experts about this week’s surprise developments.

Carbon removal is ‘inevitable’ as climate change alarm bells ring Once a fringe idea, carbon capture and storage has become a key part of decarbonization plans around the world. But does this technology risk giving big polluters a license to carry on as normal? The FT weighs the pros and cons.

Video: Carbon Capture: Hopes, Challenges and Controversies | FT Movie

Aptitude

Boost your bike with investment-worthy cycle hacks, from 3D-printed saddles to Tour de France-tested axles, Fergus Scholes rounds up the 14 best bike upgrades.

To work Find out what’s turning the world of work upside down with our latest newsletter, Working It, from Editor-in-Chief Isabel Berwick.

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