“We watch carefully and with some concern what’s happening in Hong Kong,” Lee said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait at the New Economy Forum. “That something was going to happen -- was very much on the cards -- and could not have been avoided because the demonstrations and the expressions of defiance could not have carried on indefinitely, certainly not to the end of ‘one country, two systems’ in 2047.”

Lee’s comments came after China’s top legislative body last week passed a resolution allowing for the disqualification of any Hong Kong lawmakers deemed insufficiently loyal. Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government immediately disqualified four legislators, prompting the remaining 15 opposition members in the 70-seat Legislative Council to resign.


Lee Hsien Loong


The loyalty resolution was the latest move by China to stifle dissent and debate in the former British colony in the wake of pro-democracy protests that rocked the city last year. That included the enactment of sweeping national security legislation, which raised concerns about the city’s future as a global business hub and prompted the U.S. to sanction top Chinese and Hong Kong officials.

Lee said he hoped China could deal with Hong Kong “in a way which would deal with a problem, but not shake confidence, and maintain the Hong Kong system intact so that it can be valuable to China and can be part of the prosperity in the region.”