Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam reshuffled the cabinet, appointed Security Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Chief Secretary for Administration-the second-largest position in the government-and appointed Commissioner of Police Deng Xiaoping to succeed Lee Kuan Yew. This move is seen as China’s strengthening of Hong Kong’s control After the democratic “Apple Daily” was suppressed, it called on the United States to increase sanctions.
At a press conference on Friday, Lin also announced that Xiao Feng, the deputy police chief, will become the city’s new police chief.
Lee’s appointment as Chief Secretary for Administration marks the first time that a former police officer has assumed the highest administrative position in Hong Kong.
Although these appointments were announced by Carrie Lam, they were also approved by the State Council of China. They were first announced in Chinese official media.
After the official announcement on Friday, Lee stated in a brief statement that he would ensure that the “patriots” govern Hong Kong and vowed to help the Chief Executive implement policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carrie Lam, Li and Tang are now meeting with the media. pic.twitter.com/itlKs5wFqY
-Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) June 25, 2021
For his part, Tang stated that he will ensure that the forces under his leadership help protect the city’s “national security” and help eliminate any form of domestic “terrorism” and threats from “external forces”. As the police chief, Tang was the city’s main law enforcement officer in the 2019 democracy protests.
At the same time, Xiao stated that he will continue to “lead the police force with loyalty, keep in touch with society, and protect Hong Kong’s national security.”
The three newly appointed officials did not answer questions from reporters, leaving Carrie Lam facing the media. Li Zhiying, the founder of the media group, was arrested in August last year and is currently in jail awaiting trial under the broad-worded national security law that China implemented on the territory a year ago.
The day before the reorganization, the pro-democracy Apple Daily released its last edition after its editors and senior managers were arrested and their assets were frozen. Li described the arrested as “criminals” and said that “ordinary reporters” should not interact with them.
At the press conference, Lin told the media that her vision for the city is to “maintain the “legal rights” of citizens, but will also strictly enforce the law.
China’s controversial national security law imposed on Hong Kong sentenced the country to a maximum of life imprisonment for crimes of secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces.
Beijing says the law is necessary to deal with separatism and foreign interference, but critics say the law is now being used to hunt down dissidents and activists on the grounds that the law has charged several people.
Call for U.S. sanctions
Recent events in Hong Kong, including the closure of the Apple Daily, prompted two major US senators to urge President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on the perpetrators, implying that foreign banks are also implicated.
Senator Pattumi, a senior Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Democratic Party, said that the Hong Kong Autonomy Act passed last year requires the US Secretary of State to confirm to Congress that any foreigners, including foreign companies, cannot enjoy “Substantial contributions” to freedom of assembly, speech, press freedom, or independent rule of law.
The letter said: “The shocking suppression of Li Zhiying and Apple Daily seems likely to involve many foreigners to whom Article 5 of the Hong Kong Autonomy Law applies.”
The letter refers to a Reuters report last month that the newly appointed chief secretary Li Zai Letters were sent to Jimmy Lai, the owner of Apple Daily, and branches of HSBC and Citibank, threatening to face up to seven years in prison for any transaction with the billionaire’s account in the city.
The senator’s letter provided to Reuters stated that Lee had ordered the branch to freeze Lai’s account, “it seems they have done so.”
Earlier this week, about 500 policemen raided the “Apple Daily”. The letter stated that the Hong Kong Security Bureau subsequently ordered the “Apple Daily” bank to freeze the newspaper’s assets, “directly leading to its closure.”
It said: “After Li Zhiying was treated unfairly and Apple Daily was forced to close, we urge your government to immediately and fully implement the Hong Kong Autonomy Law.”
Senator legislation requires mandatory sanctions on individuals and entities that directly undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, and secondary sanctions on banks that do business with these entities and individuals.
The senators added in the letter that their understanding is that the order for the foreign bank was issued extrajudicially by an official outside the court system, without any criminal charges or subpoenas.
“These orders have cemented the impression of many people that Hong Kong no longer has the rule of law,” they said.
Last month, a Citi spokesperson said in response to a Reuters report that the bank must abide by all laws and regulations of the country in which it operates.
HSBC declined to comment, but CEO Noel Quinn has previously stated that the bank must comply with police requirements in any country in the world.
On Thursday, Biden called the closure of the Apple Daily a “sorrowful day for media freedom,” and said it marked China’s “intensified repression” while vowing to continue to support the people of the Chinese territories.
He did not mention any plans to impose further sanctions on the crackdown.
Human Rights Watch described the closure as a “systematic deprivation” of the civil and political rights of the people of the city by the Chinese government.
“Hong Kong people are watching the Chinese government take quick measures to destroy their democratic society,” said Wang Maya, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch stated that Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong “are coordinated and comprehensive, and seem to be aimed at transforming a city of fundamental freedom into a city that follows the line of the Chinese community party.”
In March of this year, the Biden administration identified 24 Chinese officials previously sanctioned by the Trump administration as responsible for weakening Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
It stated that foreign financial institutions with which they knowingly conduct major transactions are now sanctioned.
However, in the latest report submitted to Congress in May under the Act, the Treasury Department did not specify any foreign financial institutions that do business with these people.