Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has deployed a top Xinjiang police official to command the nation’s army post in Hong Kong, raising fears that Beijing is taking an increasingly hard line on security in the territory.
Major General Peng Jingtang (彭京堂) is to become commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Hong Kong garrison at the request of Xi, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
Peng was previously deputy chief of staff for the armed police force in China’s Xinjiang region, where the US government has accused China of repressive polices against Uighur Muslims, saying the policies amount to genocide. Beijing strongly denies the charge.
China has in the past few years installed officials with experience heading crackdowns in key Hong Kong roles.
In early 2020, Luo Huining (駱惠寧), a Chinese Communist Party stalwart known for executing Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, became head of the central government’s powerful Liaison Office in the territory.
Xia Baolong (夏寶龍), known for prosecuting a campaign against Christian churches in Zhejiang Province, was named director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office that same year.
Hong Kong has also put former career police officers in key government roles in the wake of the territory’s large anti-government protests in 2019.
Former secretary for security John Lee (李家超) in June last year rose to the territory’s No. 2 government position — chief secretary for administration — while former police commissioner Chris Tang (鄧炳強) became security secretary.
The defense ministry said in a statement that Peng would work to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and firmly safeguard” the stability of Hong Kong.
Last week, the Hong Kong garrison of the PLA conducted a high-profile drill to “demonstrate its confidence and determination to defend” the territory after Xi called on the military to adopt the latest technology to win future conflicts, the South China Morning Post reported.
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