Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has replaced her cabinet, appointing security secretary John Lee as chief secretary – the number two post in the government – and police chief Chris Tang as Lee’s deputy. in a move seen as a tightening of China’s takeover of the territory amid calls for more sanctions by the United States following the crackdown on pro-democracy Apple Daily.
At a press conference on Friday, Lam also announced that the deputy police commissioner, Raymond Siu, will become the city’s new police chief.
Lee’s appointment as chief of staff marks the first time a former police officer has held a key administrative position in the territory. H
In a brief statement following Friday’s formal announcement, Lee said he will ensure that the “patriots” govern Hong Kong, and vowed to help the chief executive implement the policies to contain the COVID pandemic. -19.
Carrie Lam, Lee and Tang are now reuniting 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 would help protect the city’s “national security,” and help eradicate all forms of domestic “terrorism” and threats from “forces.” external “. As police chief, Tang was the main law enforcement officer in the city during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Meanwhile, Siu said he will continue to “lead the police force in a spirit of loyalty and connection with the community to protect Hong Kong’s national security.”
The three newly appointed officers did not take questions from reporters, leaving Lam to face the press. Media group founder Jimmy Lai was arrested last August and is in jail awaiting trial under the national security law that China imposed on the territory a year ago.
The replacement came a day after pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily published its latest edition after its editors and senior executives were arrested and their belongings frozen. Lee described those arrested as “criminals” saying that “normal journalists” should not associate with them.
During the press conference, Lam told the media that his vision for the city was to “defend the“ legitimate rights ”of citizens, but that the law would also be strictly enforced.
While the appointments were announced by Lam, they were also made with the consent of the State Council of China. They were first reported in China’s state media.
He demands American sanctions
Recent events in Hong Kong, including the closure of the Apple Daily newspaper, have encouraged two major U.S. senators to demand that President Joe Biden impose sanctions on those responsible, suggesting that foreign banks were among those involved.
Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican class member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the committee, said the Hong Kong Autonomy Act last year required the secretary of State of the United States to identify to Congress any foreign person, including foreign companies “Contributing materially” to “the inability of the people of Hong Kong to enjoy freedom of assembly, speech, press, or press. independent rule of law “.
“It seems very likely that the astonishing crackdown on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily will involve numerous foreigners to whom Section 5 of the Hong Kong Autonomous Law applies,” the letter said.
The letter refers to a report by the Reuters news agency last month that Lee, the newly appointed chief secretary, has sent letters to Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai and subsidiaries of HSBC and Citibank threatening up to seven years in prison for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city.
Lee had ordered affiliates to freeze Lai’s accounts, “which he seems to have done,” he said in a text letter from senators made available to Reuters.
About 500 police officers earlier this week stormed Apple Daily and the letter said the Hong Kong Security Office had ordered Apple Daily’s banks to freeze the newspaper’s assets, ” resulting directly in its closure ”.
“We urge your administration to fully enforce the Hong Kong Autonomy Act following the injustice imposed on Jimmy Lai and the forced closure of Apple Daily,” he said.
Senators ’legislation imposes mandatory sanctions on people and entities that directly undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and secondary sanctions on banks that do business with those entities and people.
In their letter, the senators added that it was understood that the orders to the foreign banks were issued extrajudicially, by a single officer outside the judicial system, and without any criminal charges or summonses.
“These orders solidify the impression of many that the rule of law is no longer in Hong Kong,” they said.
Last month, a Citi spokesman said in response to the Reuters story that the bank was required to comply with all laws and regulations in the countries in which it operates.
HSBC declined to comment, but CEO Noel Quinn said earlier that the bank will be answering police questions in every country in the world.
On Thursday, Biden called the closure of Apple Daily a “sad day for media freedom” and said he had signaled “intensified repression” by China, while vowing to maintain support for people in the territory. ruled by China.
He did not mention any plans to impose further sanctions for repression.
The closure has been described by Human Rights Watch as a “systematic dismantling” of human rights in the city by the Chinese government.
“The people of Hong Kong are watching the Chinese government take swift steps to destroy their democratic society,” said Maya Wang, senior Chinese researcher at HRW.
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 that foreign financial institutions that know consequences significant transactions with them were now subject to sanctions.
However, in its latest report to Congress required by the May bill, the Treasury Department has not identified any foreign financial institutions that do business with those people.