New Hong Kong cabinet includes four under US sanctions

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HONG KONG: Beijing selected a new Hong Kong government on Sunday (Jun 19), including four top officials subject to US penalties, which the incoming leader has denounced as an attempt to “bully” China.

The US sanctioned 11 Hong Kong and Beijing officials two years ago after imposing a broad national security statute to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous city following the large, sometimes violent democracy rallies of 2019.

Seven former Hong Kong government members will remain in the new administration, including leader-in-waiting John Lee, security minister Chris Tang, mainland affairs minister Erick Tsang, and newly appointed chief secretary for administration Eric Chan.

The other three were retiring police chief Steven Lo, outgoing city leader Carrie Lam, and outgoing Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng, who will be replaced.

According to the sanctions, Lam was obliged to accept her income in cash due to banking constraints.

Lee told reporters on Sunday that he “scoffed at the so-called sanctions” and paid no attention to them.

“Some bully countries sought to scare (Hong Kong) officials with measures like sanctions, particularly after their attempts to damage our national security failed due to the measures we deployed,” Lee explained.

“This strengthened our resolve to carry out our responsibilities in preserving national security.”

The selection of 26 key officials on Sunday comes less than two weeks before the new government takes office on July 1, the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule and the midpoint of the “One Country, Two Systems” political model.

While there has been widespread anticipation that Xi will visit Hong Kong for the centennial celebrations as a symbolic endorsement of Lee’s new administration, the trip has yet to be confirmed.

This would be Xi’s first trip outside of China.

In early May, a small committee of Beijing loyalists chose John Lee, 64, a former security officer who led the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, as the next chief executive.

Xi said Lee had the “courage to accept responsibility” and “made contributions to preserving national security and Hong Kong’s development and stability” during his visit to Beijing for his formal appointment last month.

After China altered Hong Kong’s electoral system in 2021 to ensure anyone deemed unpatriotic would be ineligible to run, Lee was the sole candidate in the contest and garnered 99 percent of the vote.

Lee’s administration will be enlarged under a restructuring plan presented by the outgoing Lam, involving the creation of two new policy bureaus and three deputy secretary roles for administration, finance, and justice.

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