Hong Kong: Former police officer John Lee named No. 2 officer as China tightens security

Hong Kong: Former police officer John Lee named No. 2 officer as China tightens security

China is prioritising security altogether its recent legal and political overhaul in Hong Kong , as is once more apparent during a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday which saw security secretary John Lee - former long-time policeman -- being appointed to the city’s No. 2 spot. consistent with political commentators, this is often just the newest during a series of steps that Beijing is taking to clamp down on the city's pro-democracy protests, a measure that's essential to the Chinese ruling party's long-term plans for the Asian center .

Security Secretary John Lee -- a former long-time police official -- has been promoted to the Chief Secretary for administration, Hong Kong’s top official, Carrie Lam, told a press conference Friday alongside Lee and other security offici

als receiving promotions. China’s cabinet approved the appointments Wednesday, the official Xinhua press agency said. subsequent day a campaign led by Lee forced Apple Daily, the city’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper, to pack up .

Lee, 63, will replace Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, and commissioner Chris Tang, 55, enter the safety secretary’s role. Raymond Siu, 55, a deputy commissioner who joined the force in 1988, will take over Tang’s position at the enforcement agency.

David Webb, a prominent Hong Kong investor who has put funds into Apple Daily’s parent, Next Digital Ltd., said the govt missed a chance to appoint a stronger team to repair the financial hub’s battered economy. “Instead, Hong Kong is beginning to look more sort of a dictatorship , with the No. 2 positions now being filled by a hardliner whose recent achievement is to cripple a newspaper,” Webb said during a text message.

China has administered an unprecedented campaign to curb dissent in Hong Kong , led by national security legislation handed down on June 30 last year in response to a wave of unrest. The closure of Apple Daily, which was struggling after Lee used the safety law to freeze the company’s assets as a part of the city’s prosecution of company founder Jimmy Lai, represented one among the most important blows yet to the local democracy movement.

The U.K. and the U.S. condemned the newspaper’s closure, with President Joe Biden calling it a “sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and round the world.” Lee, one among several Hong Kong officials sanctioned by the Trump administration for his or her role in implementing the safety law, has been a vocal proponent of the legislation.

“The relevant remarks by the U.S. politician are totally groundless,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday at a daily briefing in Beijing, without directly naming Biden.

“The law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong focuses on cracking down on a couple of anti-China, destabilizing forces who seriously endanger national security,” Zhao said. “The law protects the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents, including press freedom.”

The new team are going to be charged with overseeing a series of elections within the coming months under a Beijing-led revamp that, among other things, created a panel to vet candidates for “patriotism.” Lam, who hasn’t yet said whether she’ll see a second term when her first expires next year, has also been tasked by Beijing to pass local legislation expanding the city’s powers to police national security.

“Because the govt goes through the enforcement stage of the national security law, I won’t be surprised if the govt wants to place people well versed with enforcement in senior positions,” Regina Ip, who served because the city’s security secretary 20 years ago and may be a current member of the chief Council that advises Hong Kong’s leader, told Bloomberg Television before the formal announcement.

The chief secretary’s post has been a springboard to higher office: two of the city’s four chief executives since its return to Chinese rule out 1997 first served within the role. The appointment of a law-enforcement officer to the highest administrative post, marked a shift for the previous British colony, which has long been dominated by career civil servants like Lam.

“There is certainly no change within the role and responsibility of the Chief Secretary ,” Lam told reporters Friday. “The mere incontrovertible fact that a specific candidate is coming from a specific background doesn’t mean that the work will fit him by asking him only to perform in a neighborhood that he's most conversant in . That’s not things .”

Senior appointments are made at the advice of the Hong Kong government but need final approval from Beijing. Xinhua didn’t explain why the State Council, China’s cabinet, announced the appointment two days after it had been approved.

Lee has sought to broaden the scope of the safety law by formally stating that police surveillance of communications comes under its scope, potentially giving the authorities broader powers to intercept the knowledge .

“The implementation of the safety law turned Hong Kong from chaos to governance,” he said within the Friday morning press conference . “The ‘patriots-ruling-Hong Kong’ principle and improvement of the voting system put an end to chaos and times of destruction, opening up a replacement chapter of development and effective governance.”

In a news conference following the arrest of 5 top Apple Daily executives last week, Lee said residents must distance themselves from the suspects or “you can pay a hefty price.” He earlier warned that prominent Hong Kong activists who had fled overseas to evade the safety law -- like former politicians Nathan Law and Ted Hui -would be pursued for all times .

Lee’s appointment “may be a proactive strategy to elicit loyalty from the police ,” said Dongshu Liu, an professor of Chinese politics at the town University of Hong Kong .

“The police has become far more important for maintaining social order and implementing the national security law,” Liu said. “You appoint someone who has been a policeman their entire career - that’s a logo of the increasing power of the police.”

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