Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, is not seeking a second term, she announced Monday.
Lam, who took office in 2017, has been accused of trying to play both sides between Hong Kong residents and Beijing and criticized for her handling of COVID-19. During her daily press briefing, she said her decision not to run again is due to a personal reason. "There's only one consideration and that is family," Lam said. "I have told everyone before that family is my first priority. They think it's time for me to go home."
In 1997, after being ruled by Britain, Hong Kong was transferred to China, with a guarantee of several freedoms for at least 50 years. Pro-democracy activists have since accused the government of curtailing political and individual freedoms, and Reuters writes that Lam and the other three chief executives to lead Hong Kong in the last 25 years have "all struggled to balance the democratic and liberal aspirations of many residents with the vision of China's Communist Part leadership."
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Lam was the target of massive protests in 2019, with demonstrators taking to the streets to show their opposition to a controversial extradition bill. The protesters called on Lam to step down, a demand she rejected. Reuters reports that at the time, Lam told a group of business people that Hong Kong's chief executive "has to serve two masters by constitution — that is the central people's government and the people of Hong Kong. Political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited."
Lam referred to those protests, as well as the pandemic and "nonstop interference of foreign forces," on Monday, saying that during her tenure, "I have faced unprecedented and enormous pressure."
Hong Kong is experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and while Lam said on Saturday there must be a "compulsory, universal test" of the entire population, she did not reveal when this might happen. In early March, when the government said it planned to test everyone, there was a surge in panic buying, and Lam had to call for calm.