Beijing, Jun 25 (EFE).- Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee is set to replace Matthew Cheung as the number two in the city’s government, Chinese state-owned Xinhua agency reported Friday.
According to the agency, the Chinese State Council on Wednesday decided to appoint Lee as chief secretary, while current Hong Kong police commissioner Chris Tang will take charge of security.
The changes in the cabinet come on the recommendation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Xinhua said.
The position of chief secretary controls key departments such as education, welfare, health and food, transport and housing.
The reshuffle comes at a time when the Hong Kong administration looks to roll out the contentious electoral reforms, which was passed last month by the local legislature.
The Legislative Council is currently occupied by only pro-Beijing lawmakers following the expulsion of four opposition members and the resignation of 15 others in protest.
These electoral reforms will drastically reduce the ability of the pro-democratic opposition to wield power in the semi-autonomous city.
The changes include increasing the number of seats in the council from 70 to 90, but only 20 of them can be elected by direct suffrage compared to the 40 under the previous regulations.
This development marks a step further in strengthening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, which was returned to China by Britain in 1997 under the Sino-British Declaration of 1984.
However, as per the agreement, Beijing had promised to guarantee the rights and freedoms then existing in Hong Kong for another 50 years.
Moreover, earlier this week, it was made compulsory for elected officials and those contesting elections to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as a means of supposedly guaranteeing their patriotism.
These legal modifications come in the wake of the Hong Kong national security law that Beijing drafted and imposed last year, following large scale anti-government protests on the streets of the former British colony during the second half of 2019.
This law stipulates penalties of up to life imprisonment for cases of secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
Activists, human rights organizations and foreign governments have expressed concern about the deteriorating democratic situation in Hong Kong over the last one year. EFE