Beijing approves Hong Kong government reshuffle, doubling down on national security law enforcement

Domestic News

Two security officials in Hong Kong were promoted today, marking an even heavier emphasis on enforcement of Beijing’s national security law. John Lee, the new number two in city government, is the first chief secretary since the 1997 handover to not have economic or social policy expertise.

hong kong symbol with john lee and chris tang in front
Illustration by Derek Zheng

Today, the Hong Kong government announced that Beijing had approved three new appointments for key executive offices in the city:

  • John Lee (李家超 Lǐ Jiāchāo) was promoted from security secretary to the number two spot in city government, chief secretary.
  • Chris Tang (鄧炳強 Dèng Bǐngqiáng), the police chief, was promoted to Lee’s job as security secretary.
  • Raymond Siu (蕭澤頤 Xiāo Zéyí), the deputy police commissioner, was promoted to Tang’s job to head the city’s police force.

The reshuffle reflected a “greater emphasis on law and order,” per the South China Morning Post, noting that the city is preparing to implement major changes to election laws that the National People’s Congress in Beijing approved in March.

  • The elevation of Lee in particular represents the “first time a security specialist has taken on the number two position in the territory since Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997,” Reuters reports.
  • Previous number twos in Hong Kong “have had extensive economic and social policy-making expertise.”
  • With Lee and Tang both taking top posts, there are now three key government positions held by “ex-uniformed services” members rather than civil servants, Hong Kong–based lawyer Antony Dapiran notes. The third is Erick Tsang (曾國衞 Zēng Guówèi), the current secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, who formerly served as director for immigration.

The move comes after a month of ramped-up enforcement of the city’s national security law, from extended jail time for media tycoon Jimmy Lai (黎智英 Lí Zhìyīng) to the complete shutdown of his pro-democracy tabloid, Apple Daily.

Next week on July 1, “Lam and Lee are expected to travel to Beijing for the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary celebrations,” per Reuters. Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) is also expected to attend the commemorations in Beijing, the SCMP reports.

It is unclear whether a July 1 pro-democracy rally, held every year since 2003 to mark the 1997 handover, will happen in Hong Kong this year. The traditional organizer of the demonstration, the Civil Human Rights Front, announced that it was considering disbanding after “scrutiny from the police and China-owned media” and resignations from dozens of its members, but three other groups have applied to organize a demonstration, Hong Kong Free Press reports.

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