Five new principal officials have been appointed in a cabinet reshuffle, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday.
The announcement confirmed local media reports the day before that the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip would be replaced by the Director of Immigration Erick Tsang. Nip is to replace Joshua Law as secretary for the civil service.
The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau will be replaced by Christopher Hui, who was appointed as the Financial Services Development Council executive director on a three-year term last June.
The Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang will be succeeded by the incumbent Electrical and Mechanical Services Director Alfred Sit.
The Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, who was promoted from undersecretary for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in 2015, will be replaced by the incumbent Labour and Welfare Undersecretary Caspar Tsui.
Referencing a constitutional row over the weekend related to Beijing’s offices in Hong Kong, Lam told reporters: “I can tell you categorically that for this appointment and removal exercise, it has nothing to do with press releases issued recently.”
Nip on Monday apologised on Facebook for “confusion and misunderstanding” arising from “errors” made in conflicting government statements on the constitutional status of the liaison office.
Lam cited the coronavirus epidemic and economic downturn as some of the challenges faced by her new team: “Hong Kong is seeing a difficult time and they are willing to join the ruling time. I admire their spirit to take up the challenge.”
Shortly before the media briefing, state-run Xinhua reported that China’s State Council had approved the chief executive’s recommended nominations.
Lam declined to respond to a question on whether the appointment of Tsang, who was photographed in his office standing in front of a picture of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was due to his ties with Beijing.
“My default answer is, there is always a first to everything. If we find the right person then we should not be inhibited by the convention and not to go for the best option,” she said. “[Tsang] has also very extensive experience in mainland affairs, so even from that very objective perspective, I think he is a very suitable candidate.