Career scientist and cybersecurity expert appointed deputy chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong

Dr Tan Tieniu, formerly a vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will become the liaison office’s seventh deputy director, despite having little diplomatic experience

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:58pm

Beijing has appointed a computer scientist and cybersecurity expert as a deputy chief of its liaison office in Hong Kong, in a move seen as part of the central government’s efforts to reach out to academia and professional elites.

Xinhua announced on Friday that 52-year-old Dr Tan Tieniu, formerly vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, would become the office’s seventh and youngest deputy director.

The move came three days after Song Zhe, the foreign ministry’s commissioner in the city since 2012, was named a deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing as part of a management reshuffle.

Tan is the first academic to be parachuted into the liaison office since Beijing appointed Tsinghua University law dean Wang Zhenmin to head the office’s legal department in January.

Tan has spent his career as a scientist after receiving his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Xian Jiaotong University in 1984.

After receiving his master’s degree in the same field from Imperial College London in 1986, he spent 13 more years in Britain. During that period, he obtain his PhD from Imperial in 1989, and worked as a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Reading’s computer science department.

In 1998, Tan returned to China under the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Hundred Talents Programme, a sponsorship scheme launched in 1994 to attract at least 100 Chinese scientists to return to their country. On his return, he became head and professor of a laboratory at the academy.

He also served as deputy secretary general for the academy’s cyber-infrastructure and international affairs.

Tan’s experience in Britain and academia was viewed by analysts as a key consideration for his latest posting in Hong Kong, where professors and university students have long played a leading role in social movements, including the 2014 Occupy protests.

Lau Siu-kai, a leading Beijing adviser on Hong Kong affairs, said Tan’s background made him more qualified to communicate with local scholars.

“They share the same academic language ... and he should also have some understanding of Western values,” Lau said.

On Thursday, Tan met a delegation from Fujian’s Huaqiao University at the liaison office. Yin Xiaojing, the deputy director in charge of liaising with local academics, reached the retirement age of 60 in August, but Lau said it remained unclear whether Tan would be taking over from the deputy chief.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu believed Tan would play a role in exchanges with local academics. Open University president Wong Yuk-shan said he could help foster innovation and technology cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Professor Tony Chan Fan-cheong, president of the University of Science and Technology, said he hosted Dr Tan in spring this year when he was visiting for the institution’s 25th Anniversary.

“[Dr Tan’s] assignment to the ... Liaison Office in Hong Kong shows the central government’s seriousness in linking up the mainland’s scientific establishment with Hong Kong’s goal of developing more innovation and technology in our economy,” Chan told the Post.