Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has reshuffled her cabinet and appointed Security Secretary John Lee as chief secretary, the government’s number two, and police chief Chris Tang as his deputy. of Lee, to an extent considered a tightening of China’s control over the territory. amid calls for more US sanctions following the crackdown on pro-democracy Apple Daily.
At a press conference on Friday, Lam also announced that Deputy Police Commissioner Raymond Siu would become the city’s new police chief.
Lee’s appointment as secretary in chief marks the first time a former police officer has taken on a top-level administrative position in the territory.
Although Lam announced the appointments, they were also made with the approval of the State Council of China. They were first announced in the Chinese state media.
In a brief statement following Friday’s formal announcement, Lee said he would make sure the “patriots” ruled Hong Kong and vowed to help the chief executive implement policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carrie Lam, Lee and Tang now meet with the press. pic.twitter.com/itlKs5wFqY
– Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) June 25, 2021
For his part, Tang said he would make sure the forces under his authority would help protect the city’s “national security” and help eradicate any form of internal “terrorism” and threats from “external forces.” As police chief, Tang was the city’s top police officer during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Meanwhile, Siu said he will continue to “lead the police force with a spirit of loyalty and connection to the community to protect Hong Kong’s national security.”
The three newly appointed officials received no questions from reporters, leaving Lam in front of the press. Media group founder Jimmy Lai was arrested last August and is in jail awaiting trial under the widespread national security law China imposed on the territory a year ago.
The reshuffle came a day after pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily published its latest issue after its editors and top executives were arrested and its assets frozen. Lee described the detainees as “criminals” saying “normal journalists” should not relate to them.
During the press conference, Lam told the media that his vision of the city was to “defend the“ legitimate rights ”of citizens, but that the law would also be strictly enforced.
China’s controversial national security law in Hong Kong punishes crimes of secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with life sentences.
Beijing says the law is necessary to deal with separatism and foreign interference, but critics say the legislation is now used to prosecute dissidents and activists, citing the indictment of several people under the law.
He calls for US sanctions
Recent events in Hong Kong, including the closure of the Apple Daily, prompted two major U.S. senators to urge President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on those responsible, suggesting that foreign banks were among those involved.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the committee, said the Hong Kong self-government law passed last year required the U.S. secretary of state to identify in 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 the rule of law.”
“It seems very likely that the impressive crackdown on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily will involve numerous foreigners to whom section 5 of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act applies,” the letter said.
The letter referred to a report by Reuters news agency last month that Lee, the newly appointed chief secretary, sent letters to Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank threatening up to seven years in prison for any deal 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 from the senators’ letter made available to Reuters said.
Earlier this week, some 500 police officers stormed Apple’s newspaper and the letter said the Hong Kong Security Bureau ordered Apple Daily’s banks to freeze the newspaper’s assets, “resulting directly in its closure “.
“We urge your administration to enforce the Hong Kong Autonomy Act following the injustice imposed on Jimmy Lai and the forced closure of Apple Daily,” he said.
Senators ’legislation requires mandatory sanctions on individuals and entities that directly harm Hong Kong’s autonomy and secondary sanctions on banks that do business with those entities and individuals.
In their letter, the senators added that they understood that the orders to the foreign banks were issued extrajudicially, by a single official outside the judicial system, and without any criminal charge or summons.
“These orders consolidate the impression of many that the rule of law no longer exists in Hong Kong,” they said.
Last month, a Citi spokesman said in response to Reuters history that the bank had to comply with all laws and regulations in the countries where it operates.
HSBC declined to comment, but CEO Noel Quinn previously said the bank must comply with police requests from any country in the world.
On Thursday, Biden called the closing of the Apple Daily a “sad day for media freedom” and said he noted “intensifying repression” by China, promising to maintain support for the people of China. territory ruled by China.
He made no mention of any plan to impose new sanctions for repression.
Human Rights Watch has described the closure as a “systematic dismantling” of the city’s civil and political rights by people in the city.
“The people of Hong Kong are watching as the Chinese government takes swift action to destroy their democratic society,” said Maya Wang, HRW’s lead Chinese researcher.
HRW said Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong “are coordinated and comprehensive and seem aimed at transforming a mostly free city into one that follows the line of the Chinese community party.”
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 conscientiously conduct significant transactions were now subject to sanctions.
However, in its last report to Congress required by law in May, the Treasury Department did not identify any foreign financial institution that did business with these people.