Beijing’s priority is national security: academics

Academics say Friday’s top-government reshuffle and promotion of disciplinary services officers into key positions indicate that maintaining national security will be Beijing’s main priority going forward.

Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University’s Department of Government and Public Administration, said he thinks it will become a trend for disciplinary services officers to take up cabinet-level positions, rather than administrative officers (AOs).

He said the decision to appoint John Lee as chief secretary and Chris Tang as security chief appears to be Beijing’s way of rewarding them for their handling of the 2019 social unrest.

“Beijing authorities now appreciate more the political loyalty and political discipline… I think the criteria has changed after the anti-extradition movement, and they rely on the police force to settle the opposition from the anti-extradition bill movement, and now they are appreciated, their efforts are appreciated, so they may play a more and more important role in the future government,” Choy said.

While some critics questioned whether Lee has enough policy-making experience, Choy said the issue is irrelevant as national security is now the top priority for the central government and SAR administration.

Also echoing that view is Lau Siu-kai, a vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, who said Beijing is trying to send a clear message with the appointments ahead of key elections in the coming year.

“Beijing wants to tell everybody who want to be major figures in the Hong Kong government that they need to be loyal to their country, be courageous, be committed to Hong Kong, and be able to think outside the box,” he said.