Security chief named Hong Kong No. 2 amid official clampdown

Security chief named Hong Kong No. 2 amid official clampdown

HONG KONG – China on Friday promoted Hong Kong’s top security official to the region’s No. 2 spot as Beijing called on the Asian financial center’s government to crack down on free speech and political opponents to restore stability after anti-government protests. sees.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Security Secretary John Lee will replace Matthew Cheung as the city’s chief secretary, while Police Chief Chris Tang will take over Lee’s role. Tang’s deputy Raymond Siu Chak-Yi will be the new chief of the police force.

Hong Kong’s government has long been lauded for its professionalism and efficiency, but in recent years its image has been tarnished by restrictions and suppression of pro-democracy protests and strict enforcement of Beijing’s security policies. The US and other Western democracies have imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions on Lam, Lee and other members of the administration.

Violent clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters in 2019 prompted the central government to take a firm line against political concessions, a policy seen by Lam, Lee, Tang and Siu, who made restoring public order their top priority. Made.

Lam said of those promoted, “They have made distinguished performances in government over the years and have proven leadership skills.” “I am confident that they are capable of their new positions and will take on the challenges they face in serving the community.”

Former No. 2 Cheung will retire from government service.

The change of leadership came a year after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the former British colony and the Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s last remaining pro-democracy newspaper, published its final edition.

Police seized the newspaper’s assets worth $2.3 million, searched its office and last week arrested five top editors and officials, accusing them of foreign collusion to endanger national security. Its founder, Jimmy Lai, is facing charges under the National Security Act of foreign collusion and is currently serving a prison sentence for his involvement in the 2019 pro-democracy protest movement.

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden said it was “a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world,” and accused Beijing of “using its power to suppress independent media and silence dissenting views.” insisted”.

“The people in Hong Kong have the right to freedom of the press,” Biden said in a statement on the White House website. Instead, Beijing is denying basic freedoms and attacking Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions and processes, which is inconsistent with its international obligations.”

Apple Daily continues to be published online in Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its territory.

Beijing promised that Hong Kong could retain its civil liberties for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997, but viewed it as essentially imposing total political control and undue foreign influence on the quasi. Commitment to ending the going is abandoned. Autonomous city institutions.

China effectively ended multiparty democracy in Hong Kong by enacting national security legislation in Beijing without a formal Chinese legislature without debate or a vote in the city’s Legislative Council. It then went on to pack the Legislative Council with Beijing loyalists, while radically reducing the proportion of legislators directly elected by the electorate.

The opposition legislators had earlier resigned as a group after four aides were banned on national security grounds.

In recent months, police have arrested most of the city’s pro-democracy activists. Most are still in police custody, while others have sought asylum abroad, under threats from Lam’s administration for past statements and actions seen as betrayal to China and violations of Hong Kong law, as now. standing.

Despite the extreme emphasis on security, Lam told reporters that the chief secretary’s role in overseeing the city’s daily administration, including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, had not changed.

Yet she appeared to accept Beijing’s ever-increasing role in managing the city’s affairs and the central government’s demand for full loyalty from Hong Kong officials and members of the Legislative Council.

“Now as chief executive, I am responsible not only to Hong Kong but also to the central government, which performs national duties, especially in protecting national security,” Lam told reporters. “So to serve the nation and Hong Kong for people with commitment, integrity, leadership and spirit … we will do our best.”

China has dismissed foreign sanctions and criticism as interference in its internal affairs, and foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday defended the national security law, which is aimed at “a small group of anti-China elements in Hong Kong”. It is focused on cracking down those who seriously endanger national security, and which protects the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the majority of Hong Kong residents in accordance with the law, including freedom of the press.”

“Since the enactment of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, Hong Kong society has returned to stability, the rule of law and justice has been upheld, and the legal rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents and foreign nationals are better protected.” environment,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

Zhao said, “accusing China of suppressing press freedom simply because the organization involved in the case is a news outlet and the persons punished are working in the field of journalism is an attempt to mislead the public with ulterior motives.” ”

“The United States must respect the facts, stop using any pretext to obstruct law enforcement in (Hong Kong), stop shielding suspects, and stop any interference with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” he said. You should intervene anyway.”