Hong Kong Security Chief Promoted to Number 2 Amid Crackdown | Hong Kong protests news
Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam reshuffled her cabinet, appointing Security Secretary John Lee as Chief Secretary – the second government post – and Police Chief Chris Tang to replace Lee , in a decision seen as a tightening of China’s grip on the territory.
The reshuffle comes a year after the introduction of national security legislation that Human Rights Watch said on Friday “systematically dismantled” the civil and political rights of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.
Lee’s appointment as chief secretary marks the first time a former police officer has held a high-level administrative post in the territory.
At a press conference on Friday, Lam also announced that Deputy Police Commissioner Raymond Siu would become the city’s new police chief.
Although the appointments were announced by Lam, they were also made with the approval of the Chinese State Council and were first announced in Chinese state media.
In a brief statement following Friday’s official announcement, Lee said he would ensure “patriots” rule Hong Kong and pledged to help the chief executive implement policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carrie Lam, Lee and Tang are now meeting the press. pic.twitter.com/itlKs5wFqY
– Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) June 25, 2021
For his part, Tang said he would ensure that the forces under his authority help protect the city’s “national security” and help eradicate all forms of domestic “terrorism” and threats from “outside forces.”
As the police chief, Tang was the city’s main law enforcement official during the 2019 pro-democracy rallies with protesters criticizing the police for what they said was a brutal response to the marches that were initially extremely peaceful.
Meanwhile, Siu said he would continue to “lead the police force in a spirit of loyalty and connect with the community to protect Hong Kong’s national security.”
The three newly appointed officials did not respond to questions from reporters, leaving Lam alone to face the press.
The reshuffle came a day after pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily published its latest edition after its editors and senior executives were arrested and its assets frozen. Some 500 police raided the group’s headquarters after the arrests last week, with Lee calling those arrested “criminals.”
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai was arrested last August and is in jail awaiting trial under the broader national security law that China imposed on the territory ago. a year.
During the press conference, Lam told the media that his vision for the city was to “uphold the ‘legitimate rights’ of citizens,” but that the law would also be strictly enforced.
National security legislation punishes acts considered secession, “terrorism”, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with sentences of up to life imprisonment.
Authorities say the law is needed to fight separatism and foreign interference, but critics say it is being used to quell political opponents.
On Friday, in a report marking a year since the law was imposed, Human Rights Watch said Beijing had “systematically dismantled” the civil and political rights of the people of Hong Kong and that the crackdown on Apple Daily was an example of the the speed and intensity with which rights were being erased.
“Hong Kong people are watching the Chinese government take swift action to destroy their democratic society,” said Maya Wang, senior Chinese researcher at the human rights group.
“They used to talk politics, run for office and criticize the government, but it’s not just banned now, it’s punishable by life in prison.”
Beijing’s actions in the territory were “coordinated and comprehensive and appear to be aimed at transforming a predominantly free city into one that follows the line of the Chinese Community Party,” HRW said.
Calls for US sanctions
In Washington, DC, two top US senators, in a letter, urged President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Apple Daily crackdowns, suggesting foreign banks were among those involved.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a senior Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the committee, said the Hong Kong Autonomy Act passed last year required the secretary state to identify to Congress any foreign person, including foreign companies. “Materially contributing” to “the inability of the people of Hong Kong to enjoy freedom of assembly, expression, the press or an independent rule of law”.
“It seems very likely that the breathtaking crackdown on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily involves many outsiders to whom Section 5 of the Hong Kong Self-Reliance Act applies,” the letter said.
The letter referred to a Reuters news agency report last month that Lee, the new chief secretary, wrote to Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank, threatening until to seven years in prison for any transaction with the billionaire’s accounts in the city. .
Lee had ordered branches to freeze Lai’s accounts, “which they appear to have done,” a text of the senators’ letter made available to Reuters said.
After last week’s raid, the senators’ letter said the Hong Kong Security Bureau then ordered Apple Daily banks to freeze the newspaper’s assets, “directly causing it to shut down.”
“We urge your administration to fully implement the Hong Kong Autonomy Law in the immediate wake of the injustice inflicted on Jimmy Lai and the forced shutdown of Apple Daily,” he said.
Senators’ legislation requires mandatory sanctions for persons and entities that directly undermine the autonomy of Hong Kong and secondary sanctions for banks that do business with such entities and persons.
In their letter, the senators added that they understood that the orders to foreign banks had been issued out of court, by a single official outside the justice system, and without any criminal charges or subpoena.
“These orders reinforce the impression of many that the rule of law is no longer in Hong Kong,” they said.
Last month, a spokesperson for Citi said in response to the Reuters report that the bank was required to comply with all laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates.
HSBC declined to comment, but CEO Noel Quinn previously said the bank must comply with police demands in all countries around the world.
Biden on Thursday called the shutdown of Apple Daily a “sad day for media freedom” and said it signaled “increased repression” by China, while vowing to maintain support for the people of the territory. under Chinese control.
He made no mention of his intention to impose further sanctions following the crackdown.
In March, the Biden administration identified 24 Chinese officials previously sanctioned by the Trump administration as responsible for reducing Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
He said foreign financial institutions that knowingly engage in large transactions with them are now subject to sanctions.
However, in its last report to Congress required under the bill in May, the Treasury Department did not identify any foreign financial institutions doing business with these people.