Third top cop joins Hong Kong’s Security Bureau, raising eyebrows among lawmakers and concern groups

Senior assistant commissioner Sonny Au named deputy bureau chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 10:47pm

Concerns have been raised over the leadership of Hong Kong’s Security Bureau after all the top three positions became filled for the first time by senior police officers.

Critics said it was worrying that future policies would be mapped out solely from a police perspective.

The concerns were raised after the government announced it would appoint director of crime and security Sonny Au Chi-kwong as the new security undersecretary starting from Wednesday.

Au will join two other former senior police officers leading the bureau and formulating the city’s security policies.

Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu worked his way up to deputy police commissioner before he joined the bureau as deputy in 2012. Former chief superintendent Cassius Lau Fu-sang has been reappointed as the bureau’s political assistant.

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Security veteran and lawmaker James To Kun-sun, from the Democratic Party, said such a combination was not ideal.

“Having all police minds and one thinking mode is not good for nurturing good security policy. No checks and balances. The bureau is very likely to be biased against human rights and freedoms,” he said.

Andrew Shum Wai-nam of the Civil Rights Observer, which monitors the police, was worried that the bureau would further restrict the freedom of Hongkongers and take tougher action against protesters.

“The way police have handled order in the city, especially during rallies and political activities, has sparked controversy. [Issues] included overuse of force, lack of transparency and targeting social activists,” he said.

Au, 55, was aide-de-camp to Hong Kong’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, and protected the city’s leader between 1998 and 2002.

In 1980, at the age of 18, he joined the force as a constable. He was appointed an inspector in 1986.

Later, as chief superintendent of the department’s security wing, Au worked closely with Lee, the director of crime and security at the time. Au was named the director of crime and security last year.

In the previous three administrations, the position of security minister was held by former immigration directors.

Key challenges for the authority include controversial issues such as the joint immigration checkpoint at the local terminus of the high-speed rail link as well as national security legislation, should the administration decide to revive the shelved process.

Disciplined Services General Union chairman Lee Wan-hung, who is also vice-chairman of the Immigration Service Officers Association, was confident that the bureau would strike the right balance when mapping out policies.

“There are also immigration personnel working in the bureau, while some civil servants and permanent secretaries there have good knowledge of our immigration policies and work,” Lee said.