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Carrie Lam’s remarks came after a government-vetted committee voted to approve John Lee, a hardline security chief who cracked down on pro-democracy voices in 2019, on Sunday.
The uncontested race was completely controlled by Beijing.
The crackdown led to the imposition by Beijing of a sweeping National Security Law which saw political opponents jailed, dissenting voices silenced and the organised opposition quashed.
Appearing with Lee, Lam claimed the crackdown was necessary to restore order and stability.
“I want to thank the central government again for taking resolute measures when Hong Kong faced unprecedented challenges,” said Ms Lam, who is stepping down after a single five-year term as leader.
“It formulated the National Security Law, which helped Hong Kong transform from chaos to order, and also improved Hong Kong’s electoral system so that we can achieve long-term peace and stability,” Lam said.
China has demanded that only patriots - defined as those loyal to the ruling Communist Party - can hold office.
Ms Lam claimed that the requirement was vital for Hong Kong’s future. Mr Lee will replace Lam on July 1 and will face an immediate challenge in containing the city’s Covid cases.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed to China in 1997, and has seen significant restrictions in civil rights and freedoms in recent years.
Lee said he and Lam exchanged views on forming a new government during their Monday morning meeting, but gave no indication of any new direction for his administration.
Speaking Sunday, he said that “greater prosperity for Hong Kong’s 7.4 million citizens was his key priority.
“Having restored order from chaos, it is high time that Hong Kong starts a new chapter of development, a chapter that will be geared toward greater prosperity for all,” he said.
However, national security concerns are expected to trump all other issues, fueling speculation about a further deterioration of civil rights, free speech and the rule of law.
Ms Lam said her government would “render all the necessary assistance and support” to assist with the handover, ensuring Mr Lee “will lead Hong Kong to a greater height in the next five years.”