Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting has cast doubt over the potential appointment of an “extremely conservative” former Chinese official as the deputy official of the Home Affairs Bureau. He questioned whether Simon-Hoey Lee may be a Chinese Communist Party member.

Lee, the deputy executive director of the pro-Beijing Our Hong Kong Foundation, is rumoured to be in the running as undersecretary for home affairs in the Carrie Lam administration.

Simon-Hoey Lee. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Lee, 40, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Hong Kong, then studied at SOAS of University of London. He went on to study a law degree at China’s Tsinghua University, and ultimately a PhD in law under Wang Zhenmin. Wang was the then-head of Tsinghua’s law school, and is currently the legal chief of the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Lee was Wang’s first PhD student.

Lee was also an assistant for the county chief of Xifeng County in the Guizhou Province for four years in a “temporary role” after his PhD studies.

Lam Cheuk-ting said his sources told him the arrangement for Lee to hold the position for such a long time was extremely rare. He questioned whether Lee was a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Lam said one of Lee’s articles on the “One Country, Two Systems” principle frequently cited Marxism and socialism theories, showing deep understanding of communism – often even better than common party members.

“If the government considers appointing him as undersecretary, the background check should be the same as secretaries – he should be asked about political connections, whether he joined any political parties in Hong Kong or elsewhere,” he said.

Lam Cheuk-ting. Photo: Democratic Party.

Lack of experience

Another of Lee’s articles said: “The 2015 political reform attempt by the Hong Kong government suggested forming a chief executive by universal suffrage after nomination by a nomination committee. Such a new system design pointed a new direction for mankind’s election culture.”

Lam said his view twisted the definition of universal suffrage: “His political view is extremely conservative… he highly praises small-circle elections – I have never heard such praise.”

Lam questioned, other than studying, what Lee’s previous jobs entailed in pro-Beijing organisations.

“His experience in society is very weak,” he said. “I don’t see how is Lee better than others.”

News site HK01 on Sunday cited unnamed sources as saying that Lee was recommended by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, founder of the Our Hong Kong Foundation think tank.

“Will it be the case that future choices for undersecretaries depend on their political loyalty and background?” Lam said.

Carrie Lam exiting the LegCo chamber. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Loyalty over ability?

The lawmaker said he heard from his sources that Chief Executive Carrie Lam had tried to reject choices suggested by Beijing when picking heads of bureaus.

“But it is worrying if Lam can hold off the pressure from the central government on choices for undersecretaries,” Lam Cheuk-ting said.

Pro-democracy party Demosisto launched an email generator for the public to send letters to Carrie Lam opposing Lee’s potential appointment.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Monday that the process to select undersecretaries – by the chief executive, financial secretary, justice secretary and him – had yet to start.

Pro-Beijing news site Bastille Post, one of the first to claim Lee may be appointed a bureau deputy chief on June 27, cited unnamed sources close to the government on Monday as saying that Lee will not be the undersecretary for home affairs, and that the government is still searching for a candidate.

Basic Law

Also on Monday, Lee also published an article in Ming Pao saying the Sino-British Joint Declaration has merged into the Basic Law, and it no longer has practical significance.

Lee, a member of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, was also part of a controversy in June over the committee’s teaching package comparing Beijing-Hong Kong relationship to one between a school principal and a teacher. He recorded the voice-over in the video.

Choi Yuk-lin.

Rumours of Lee’s appointment came after a similar controversy over the potential appointment of a pro-Beijing undersecretary for education.

Over 15,000 people, of which 4,500 are education professionals, have signed a petition against the appointment of Choi Yuk-lin as the deputy education chief, despite Carrie Lam defending her.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.