A key member of Hong Kong’s Cabinet has been reassigned under a major reshuffling unveiled Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that Patrick Nip, the head of the city’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, will be replaced by Director of Immigration Erick Tsang.
Nip is being replaced after apologizing earlier this week for conflicting statements about China’s liaison office in Hong Kong. He will remain in Lam’s Cabinet as head of the city’s civil service office.
Lam also announced new ministers for the offices of financial services, home affairs, innovation and technology. She said the reshuffling was undertaken to prepare Hong Kong to recover from the economic hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in neighboring mainland China.
The Cabinet reshuffling was approved by the central government in Beijing.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Hong Kong was engulfed by several months of massive anti-government protests last year, initially sparked by a controversial extradition bill. The protests evolved into a demand for greater democracy for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the concept of “one country, two systems” since Britain handed the territory back to Beijing in 1997. But many Hong Kongers fear that autonomy is steadily being eroded by a central government that is increasingly meddling in its affairs.
Fifteen pro-democracy activists were arrested last week on charges of illegal assembly, the biggest crackdown of its kind since last year’s protests.
The move came just hours after China’s top representative office in the semiautonomous city declared it is not bound by restrictions in Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, that bar Chinese government from interfering in local affairs.