Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced she would not seek a second term in office after a controversial tenure that has seen many of the territory’s civil freedoms eroded.
As chief executive, Ms Lam oversaw a turbulent period which saw greater Chinese influence in Hong Kong following massive protests in 2019.
Ms Lam, 64, was Beijing’s handpicked choice entering office in 2017.
On Monday, she told reporters she was prioritising her family.
“There’s only one consideration and that is family. I have told everyone before that family is my first priority in terms of my consideration. They think it’s time for me to go home,” she told reporters on Monday.
Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary John Lee is tipped to be the favoured replacement for Ms Lam.
Her announcement on Monday came amid reports that Mr Lee, the second-highest ranking official, was due to present his candidacy for the leadership position this week.
The city’s leaders are selected by a small committee, whose members are nearly all pro-Beijing loyalists. They’re due to select the new chief executive next month.
Mr Lee, a former police officer, was also a leading security official during the 2019 protests. He was elevated to the leadership ranks last year, in a sign, analysts said, of Beijing’s intention to focus on security in Hong Kong.
What is Carrie Lam’s legacy?
A bureaucrat with decades of experience, Ms Lam was Hong Kong’s first female leader.
But she soon became one of the most divisive figures in the politically turbulent city.
She sparked months of protests in 2019 after proposing a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
The mass protests led to China imposing a series of policies to “restore security” and tighten control over Hong Kong and its residents.
The most prominent of these was a major national security law that criminalised most forms of political protest and dissent, and reduced the city’s autonomy.
Ms Lam backed the widely-criticised law saying it was not all “doom and gloom”.
“Compared with the national security laws of other countries, it is a rather mild law,” she has said. “Its scope is not as broad as that in other countries and even China.”
Since the national security law’s implementation in 2020, Hong Kong has seen a succession of pro-democracy activists, former lawmakers and also media figures arrested.
Other changes made by CHina under her tenure included reforming the membership make-up of the city’s election committee – to give more voting power to pro-Beijing figures, analysts said.
Read more:Carrie Lam: The controversial leader of Hong Kong