Chinese President Xi Jinping has deployed a top Xinjiang police official to command the nation’s army post in Hong Kong, raising fears Beijing is taking an increasingly hard line on security in the Asian finance hub.
Major General Peng Jingtang will become commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong garrison at the request of Xi, China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. Peng was previously deputy chief of staff for the armed police force in the far Western region of Xinjiang, where the U.S. government has accused China of repressive polices against Uyghur Muslims that amount to genocide. Beijing strongly denies the charge.
China has in recent years installed officials with experience heading crackdowns in key Hong Kong roles. In early 2020, Luo Huining, a Communist Party stalwart known for executing Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, became head of the central government’s powerful Liaison Office in the city. Xia Baolong, known for prosecuting a campaign against Christian churches in Zhejiang province, was named director of the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office in the same year.
Hong Kong has also put former career policemen in key government roles in the wake of the city’s large and sometimes violent anti-government protests in 2019. Former police chief John Lee rose to the city’s No. 2 government position in June, while fellow former officer, Chris Tang, became security secretary.
China’s 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 city after Xi called on the military to adopt the latest technology to win future wars, the South China Morning Post reported.
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