Security chief to retire after 38 years of service

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


Security Secretary Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong confirmed yesterday that he would be leaving the government after 38 years of service.

He also said Hongkongers had been enjoying more freedom since the handover.

For instance, 'there are 18 protests every day now, a number not seen in the past', he said.

In a radio interview, Lee said it was time for a break and for him to devote himself more to his family.

'As Andrew Li Kwok-nang [former chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal] said, a person should do something else when he reaches a certain stage,' Lee said.

In 1974, Lee joined the civil service as an immigration officer. From 1998 to 2002, he led the immigration department as its director.

In July 2002, he was appointed as the head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

In August a year later, he took over as the city's security chief after his predecessor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee quit following the withdrawal of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

It is widely expected that undersecretary for security Lai Tung-kwok will succeed Lee.

During his career in government, Lee witnessed a deadly arson attack on the immigration tower by right-of-abode claimants in 2000, the World Trade Organisation protests in 2005, and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's controversial visit last year.

Regarding Li's visit, protesters and the media criticised the police for placing the protest zones too far away from the main event at the University of Hong Kong and for disrupting the work of reporters.

Lee said the authorities had learned a lesson and that there was room for improvement when communicating with the press.

However, he said the police were 'wronged' in the '818 incident' on August 18 last year, when students said they were prevented from protesting during Li's visit to HKU. 'It was a lie that one of the students, Samuel Li Shing-hon, was locked up by the police,' Lee said.

Although police usually negotiated with organisers ahead of protests, controversies arose when groups came up with new demands on the spot, he said.

But activists say they are enjoying less freedom these days.

For instance, prior to the 1997 handover, protesters only had to inform police about their events. Now they are required to get a 'notice of no objection' from police, according to Civil Human Rights Front convenor Eric Lai Yan-ho.

Lai said Lee did not go far enough to defend the rights of Hongkongers. Despite the failings of the police shown during the vice-premier's visit, Lee had never apologised, Lai said.

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, vice-chairman of The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said Lee failed to review security laws, including controls on protests and assembly that were contrary to human rights.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said stricter controls were imposed on protests, especially those outside the central government's liaison office and those held during visits by the nation's top leaders. 'Lee is not a bad guy who goes out and harms others. But he doesn't have the courage to fight for our rights,' To said.