China appointed a hardliner known for stamping out protests on the mainland as the head of Hong Kong’s new security agency on Friday, days after imposing a sweeping law on the territory that criminalises dissent.
China’s cabinet, the State Council appointed Zheng Yanxiong as head of the controversial national security agency set up under the legislation that empowers mainland security agents to operate inside Hong Kong openly for the first time, unbound by the city’s laws.
Zheng, 56, rose through the ranks of the local government in southern Guangdong province which borders Hong Kong, and is known as a hardliner who stamped out often-violent anti-corruption protests that erupted in Wukan, a village in the province, in 2011.
Luo Huining, who heads Beijing’s Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, was also made National Security Adviser to the committee set up to oversee the implementation of the new security law.
Under new powers given to her under the new law, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has also picked six judges to hear cases under the new law, a move that has been criticised by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, who said judges should only be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, and not politics.
The office in charge of implementing the law won’t be subject to Hong Kong law, but to that of mainland China, and will be able to handle certain cases directly if it sees fit. Suspects in such cases could also be extradited to face trial in a mainland Chinese court.
The Hong Kong government confirmed on Thursday that speech will also come within the remit of the law, including protest slogans from the pro-democracy movement that began as protests against extradition to mainland China, and which has rocked the city for the past year.
The announcement came after police said they had made 10 arrests under the new law after thousands came out onto the city’s streets as the law took effect on July 01, the anniversary of the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
Hong Kong current affairs commentator Liu Ruishao said Luo’s “advisor” role would be far more than that in practice.
“His powers include the authority to give advice, which, in the political context of the Chinese Communist Party, means issuing instructions and orders that must be heeded,” Liu told RFA.
“He is [effectively]playing the role of Communist Party secretary [to the Hong Kong government], so we can see now that there is no more separation between the two systems,” he said.
Bruce Lui, senior journalism lecturer at Hong Kong’s Baptist University, said those sent to impose the will of the ruling Chinese Communist Party were all known for their toughness.
“I don’t think there will be any tolerance of street protest, and the room allowed for freedom of expression has shrunk a good deal now,” Lui said.
“This is mainland-style governance, the natural consequences of which will be brainwashing and crackdowns,” he said.
Former Hong Kong politician and youth leader Nathan Law, who was among six pro-democracy lawmakers stripped of their seats in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) following a decree from Beijing about the validity of their oaths of allegiance, said via Twitter that he has already left Hong Kong.
“So I bade my city farewell,” Law wrote from an undisclosed location. “As the plane took off the runway, I gazed down at the skyline I love so much for one last time. Should I have the fortune to ever return, I hope to still remain as I am: the same young man with these same beliefs. Glory to Hong Kong.”
Law said he left because several provisions in the new security law targeted activities he had been carrying out “for years,” and he wants to continue to lobby for Hong Kong on the international stage. (Source: RFA)