Beijing has appointed the Hong Kong leader’s top aide as secretary general of the new local committee overseeing national security law policy in the city.
Eric Chan Kwok-ki, director of the Chief Executive’s Office, has taken up the role at the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, which will be established under the sweeping legislation that took effect in Hong Kong on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Edmond Au Ka-wang has been appointed director of the Immigration Department – where he had been acting chief since April – and will become a member of the security law committee.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor with a Beijing-appointed adviser among its number, the committee will formulate policies for national security, as well as advancing the development of the legal system and enforcement mechanisms of the city.
Other key members of the committee include the chief secretary, financial secretary, secretary for justice, secretary for security and police commissioner.
The committee will be accountable to the central government and under its supervision.
Under the new security law, no institution, organisation, or individual in the city can interfere with the committee’s work. Information relating to its work will not be made public and decisions made by the committee will not be subject to judicial review.
Chan was officially sworn in as the secretary general of the committee on Thursday afternoon. The chief executive praised him for his outstanding leadership as the director of her office and expressed confidence in him performing the new role in the new committee.
Chan joined the Immigration Department in 1982 as an assistant immigration officer, working his way up to become deputy director in 2010 before being appointed director in 2011.
In 2017, he was the first senior official from the disciplined services to be named as the director of the Chief Executive’s Office, a post usually filled by civil service administrative officers. He is known for having strong ties with mainland officials, flowing from his immigration work.
Au was promoted to director of immigration after his former boss Erick Tsang Kwok-wai left early to take on a ministerial role. The State Council in April appointed Tsang as secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, replacing Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.
Tsang was originally due to retire from the Immigration Department in September, when Au was to succeed him.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, Au would not comment on how he would tighten immigration policy to ban those potentially seen as posing a threat to national security from entering the city.
“As a disciplined service of [Hong Kong], the Immigration Department has the responsibility to safeguard national security and [Hong Kong’s] security,” he said.
“As a gatekeeper of the ‘southern door’ [of the country], we shall handle each case in accordance with the laws and applicable policies.”
On the national security law, Au said: “It shows the central government’s care and support of Hong Kong. In the past year, we have seen that the people’s livelihood and the economy, as well as Hong Kong’s international image, have been affected by the social incidents.
“The implementation of the national security law can help stabilise Hong Kong, improve its image, and create better investment and business opportunities.”
Under Article 48(5) of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, the chief executive must nominate proposed principal officials, including the director of immigration, to the central government as part of the appointment process.
Au joined the department as an assistant immigration officer in 1988. He was promoted to assistant director in 2018 and took up the deputy post last year.
More from South China Morning Post:
- National security law: Hong Kong legal experts worry authorities, police can bypass courts in carrying out probes, tapping phones
- National security law: day of defiance as protests break out in Hong Kong, about 370 arrested
- Mainland Chinese office overseeing national security in Hong Kong ‘puts freedoms at risk’
- National security law: Hong Kong courts have fine line to walk adjudicating cases involving new legislation, legal experts say