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FirstFT: Hong Kong hardliner joins race to become city’s next leader

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John Lee, Hong Kong’s second-highest ranking official, has joined the race to succeed Carrie Lam as the Chinese territory’s leader, signalling Beijing’s increasing focus on security after pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2019.

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

The former police officer would be the first chief executive with a security background since the city’s handover from the UK to China in 1997 and has played a significant role in a crackdown on opposition following Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law in 2020.

Almost 200 activists have been arrested and multiple independent media outlets have closed, included the best-selling pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily. More than 10,000 have been arrested since the 2019 protests.

What’s your reaction to Lee joining the race to be Hong Kong’s chief executive? Share your thoughts with me at Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. — Emily

The latest on the war in Ukraine:

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

  • Sanctions: The US has imposed its most severe level of sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution and its biggest private bank. Italy and Spain led a fresh round of European expulsions of Moscow’s diplomats.

  • Energy: Russian coal producers may struggle to redirect volumes to Asian markets if the EU proceeds with a threatened total import ban, analysts said.

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

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

  • Opinion: Whatever the outcome of Vladimir Putin’s war, geopolitics is now divided between the west and a Chinese-Russian Eurasia, writes Edward Luce.

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

1. Scoop: Meta targets virtual currency market with ‘Zuck Bucks’ Meta has drawn up plans to introduce virtual coins, tokens and lending services to its apps, as Facebook’s parent company pursues its finance ambitions despite the collapse of a project to launch a cryptocurrency.

A mock-up of a Meta virtual coin with Mark Zuckerberg’s face on
© FT Montage/Unsplash/Getty Images

2. Federal Reserve to slash balance sheet by $95bn a month The US central bank is set to start shedding $95bn of assets a month from its swollen $9tn balance sheet as it steps up efforts to curb soaring inflation in the US. An account of the Federal Open Market Committee’s last meeting showed officials finalising a plan to reduce the central bank’s presence in US government bond markets.

3. Toshiba’s second-biggest shareholder pushes take-private deal 3D Investment Partners is pushing for the company to open talks on a possible sale to private equity after it was revealed last week that Bain Capital was poised to submit a buyout proposal for the $17bn Japanese conglomerate.

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

5. Le Pen’s poll surge rattles French bonds and bank stocks The risk of a victory for Marine Le Pen came into sharp focus yesterday as polls ahead of the first round of voting on Sunday showed the far-right candidate gaining ground on president Emmanuel Macron. Bank stocks fell and bond spreads between French and German government debt widened.

Coronavirus digest

The day ahead

World Health Day The World Health Organization is set to publish its annual World Health Report.

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

What else we’re reading

The weaponisation of finance The first of a two-part series on the new era of financial warfare examines how the west unleashed “shock and awe” on Russia’s economy, and how sanctions on the country’s central bank wielded the omnipresence of the US dollar to penalise an adversary of Washington.

A line chart showing how the west has been steadily increasing its use of sanctions over recent decades

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

  • Related read: In the first edition of our new weekly newsletter Working It, FT’s Sophia Smith looks at the secret — and thriving — world of alumni networks.

Expats fleeing Hong Kong meet rising 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 being undermined by locals who want to clamp down on immigration.

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

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


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

Working It Discover what’s shaking up the world of work with our latest newsletter, Working It, from work & careers editor Isabel Berwick.

Disrupted Times — Your essential FT newsletter about the changes in business and the economy between Covid and conflict. Sign up here

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