Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee, 63, is to replace Matthew Cheung as the city’s chief secretary, the government announced on Thursday.

China’s State Council has appointed Commissioner of Police Chris Tang, 55, as the head of the Security Bureau, while Deputy Police Commissioner Raymond Siu, 55, will take Tang’s role as the head of the Hong Kong Police Force.

John Lee. File photo: GovHK.

It will be the first time a former police officer from the security branch of the government will take up a top role in the administration.

John Lee was deputy police commissioner in 2010 before he was appointed to deputy head of the Security Bureau in 2012. He was promoted to the bureau’s top position in 2017.

He told the press on Friday that he will proactively coordinate the government’s work across bureaus and departments: “I will facilitate the Legislative Council’s role in monitoring the government and also implement the political ideal of patriots ruling Hong Kong… I will support the chief executive in the fight against the epidemic and push for economic development.”

Siu joined the Force in 1998 and worked his way up through the ranks, becoming Assistant Commissioner of Police in 2017. He became a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police in 2018 and was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) in 2019.

Raymond Siu. Photo: HKGov.

” I will lead the police force in a spirit of loyalty and connecting with the community to protect Hong Kong’s national security,” new police chief Raymond Siu said during at Friday’s press conference.

Tang joined the Force in 1987 and was was seconded to Interpol General Secretariat at Interpol between 2006 and 2008. He subsequently headed Hong Kong’s violent crime unit and became Assistant Commissioner of Police in 2015 before becoming the police chief during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

Chris Tang. Photo: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

Tang said he will work on immigration, import-export control, prisoners rehabilitation, anti-terrorism and national security. Mentioning the upcoming elections, Tang said he will “ensure that these take place under a safe and stable environment.”

‘Our best candidates’

Chief Executive Carrie Lam addressed a reporter’s question about the reshuffle occurring just a year before the end of her term: “We make appointments based on merit… John Lee has served in the government for close to 40 years… I hope the society will not make unnecessary speculation.”

When asked about Lee lacking experience in other policy bureaus, Lam said: “The mere fact a particular candidate does not have that full range of experience is not one of the most important factors.”

“To be fair to John Lee, he has been in the government for almost four decades, and the Security Bureau is one of the biggest, in terms of significance and in terms of number of civil servants under his supervision.”

“The three officials… are our best candidates at this moment,” Lam added. “These political appointments are not required to be from a particular background. In the past decades people from different background have joined our team to work in areas even if it was not their original professional area.”

In response to the reshuffle, shareholder activist David Webb said that the city was beginning to resemble a police state: “The Government has missed an opportunity to promote the relatively-moderate Paul Chan Mo Po from Financial Secretary to Chief Secretary, and then fill the vacancy with someone who actually understands economics and finance. Instead, Hong Kong is starting to look more like a police state, with the number-two position now being filled with a hard-liner whose most recent achievement is to cripple a newspaper.”

Matthew Cheung. Photo: GovHK.

Speaking to the press after the appointments were announced, Matthew Cheung thanked Hong Kong citizens, the media, as well as his family for their support, help and understanding, as well as his family. The former chief secretary also said that, if the opportunity arises, he is willing to serve society and contribute to the country in various ways.

“I sincerely wish that Hong Kong will maintain its long term stability and prosperity, and also wish all citizens of Hong Kong good health and happiness,” he said, without answering reporters’ questions.

Cheung, 70, has served as the city’s number two official since 2017.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.