Carrie Lam

Former immigration chief Eric Chan tipped to be Hong Kong’s next security minister

Sources say chief executive-elect Carrie Lam favours him over current deputy minister and former top cop John Li

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 11:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 12:01am

Former immigration chief Eric Chan Kwok-ki is the hot pick for Hong Kong’s next security ­minister, according to several sources, and might have to spearhead any drive by the incoming administration to introduce ­highly contentious national ­security legislation for the city.

If appointed, he would be the fourth immigration director to hold the top security post since 1998. Current security minister Lai Tung-kwok, 65, is expected to retire when his term ends in June.

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The revelation comes just a few days after the city’s newly elected leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said she was having problems putting together her ­incoming cabinet because of a ­difficult political environment.

Sources close to the matter said Lam favoured Chan to head the Security Bureau over current deputy minister John Li Ka-chiu, who quit as deputy commissioner of police to take up the job in 2012.

“Chan is a diplomatic guy and is on good terms with mainland officials,” one source said. “He also has broader experience in ­external policies from his immigration work.”

Under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, the chief executive nominates all principal ­officials, whose appointments are subject to Beijing’s approval.

[Eric] Chan is a diplomatic guy and is on good terms with mainland officials

It is unclear if Lam has ­approached Chan over the ­security minister’s job and ­whether any agreements have been made. Chan refused to ­comment when asked by the Post.

Online media outlet HK01 ­reported on Monday that Li might lead the bureau and bring in deputy police commissioner Alan Lau Yip-shing as his right-hand man.

Lau dismissed the suggestion when contacted by the Post , while another source said it was “almost impossible” to have two former top police officers heading the Security Bureau.

“It might appear to be unfair to other disciplined forces and leave a bad impression on the public amid the increasing tension between the force and society,” the source said.

Meanwhile, Lam looks likely to pick Sin Yat-kin, deputy manager of her campaign office and a ­former correctional services chief, as commissioner of the Inde­pendent Commission Against Corruption or deputy security minister. The contract of incumbent ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu ends on June 30.

Sin was earlier seen at a campaign rally for Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee before a U-turn to support Lam after she announced her plan to enter the chief executive race.

The office of the chief executive-elect refused to comment on the matter.

National security legislation will be a key challenge for the next security minister if the incoming administration decides to revive the shelved process. Article 23 of the Basic Law states that Hong Kong “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, ­secession, sedition, subversion” against the central government.

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Lam said in her manifesto that enacting such legislation was a constitutional duty for the city and that global complexity and uncertainty had made it more ­important to do so.

“The government has to weigh the pros and cons and act cautiously to try and create the right social conditions for legislation,” Lam said in her manifesto.

Chan, 57, joined the Immigration Department in 1982 as an ­assistant immigration officer. He became its deputy director in 2010 before being appointed director in 2011. He retired in April last year.