[HONG KONG] Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam visited Shenzhen to meet senior mainland officials about the city's impending leadership election, the South China Morning Post reported, a signal Beijing may have decided her political future.
Lam departed Friday morning to meet Xia Baolong, the top Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, to discuss the May 8 vote and pandemic work, the report said, citing unidentified individuals.
The city's leader had cancelled her daily Covid briefing due to unspecified scheduling changes. Her trip over the border comes after President Xi Jinping's top leadership convened twice this week.
On Monday, the Politburo's 25 members discussed the Hong Kong election and other key provincial-level reshuffles, the Post reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The Politburo's seven-strong Standing Committee then made a final decision on Thursday that was forwarded to Lam, the newspaper added.
Hong Kong's election season officially begins on Sunday, when the nomination period opens after a near-two month delay due to the city's Covid crisis. Contenders will have two weeks to declare their candidacy and secure at least 188 votes from a committee of 1,500 largely pro-Beijing electors.
No major candidate has yet put their name forward, and at a Sunday briefing Lam hinted she might not seek another five-year term. "If the next government needs my opinion," she said of the city's Covid outbreak, "I will be happy to provide."
The next chief executive will face growing pressure to tackle the Hong Kong's income equality gap and housing supply in the world's most expensive residential market - key criteria laid down by Xia in July. They must also balance instructions from mainland officials to adhere to China's strict strategy on Covid, while trying to revive the city's international business hub status. BLOOMBERG