China appointed a hardliner known for stamping out protests on the mainland as the head of Hong Kong’s new security agency on Friday, state media said, days after imposing a sweeping law on the territory that criminalises dissent.

Zheng Yanxiong will take the helm 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.

police protest march five demands 1 July 2020 causeway bay
Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

The office — which has investigative and prosecutory powers — will monitor intelligence related to national security and process cases, in some circumstances handing them over to mainland authorities.

Zheng rose through the ranks of the local government in southern Guangdong province which borders Hong Kong, to serve as secretary general of the provincial Communist Party committee.

The 56-year-old 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
Luo Huining. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Hong Kong was rocked by several months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year, a movement which Beijing is keen to suppress through the new law.

On the same day, the State Council also named Luo Huining — currently director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in the semi-autonomous city — as the national security adviser to the city’s newly-formed national security commission chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. 

The State Council on Thursday also appointed veteran Hong Kong official Eric Chan Kwok-ki as the commission’s secretary general. 

Eric Chan
Eric Chan. File Photo: GovHK.

The commission — also created by the new law — will oversee policy formulation relating to the national security law in Hong Kong.

Chan previously served as the director of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive’s Office, before which he was the territory’s head of immigration.

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