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Three US-Sanctioned Senior Police Officers in Hong Kong Are Promoted

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There have been personnel changes at the top of the National Security Department (NSD) of the Hong Kong Police Force, and three senior officials who have been sanctioned by the United States have gained promotion.

On May 2, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu appointed Kan Kai-yan as the head of the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force, replacing the retired Deputy Commissioner (National Security) Edwina Lau Chi-wai. Kan’s appointment took effect today, and was sworn in on the same day. Kelvin Kong Hok-lai, Assistant Commissioner of the Police Force, succeeded Kan and was promoted to Director of the National Security Department. The 58-year-old Steve Li Kwai-wah, the former senior superintendent of the National Security Department, was promoted to chief superintendent.

When Lee appointed Kan and Li, he specifically mentioned the U.S. sanctions against them, saying that both Kan and Li were “fearless, firm in their stance, and fully dedicated to their duties.”

On Nov. 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the expansion of the list of Chinese and Hong Kong officials for sanctions. Nine people, including Edwina Lau, then Deputy Commissioner of the Police (National Security), and Steve Li, Senior Superintendent of the National Security Department of the Police.

The then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that officials, including Steve Li, were sanctioned for participating in the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong. Pompeo said that they would not be allowed to travel to the United States, and any US-related assets would also be frozen.

Under the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, all banks are prohibited from doing business with the officials on the list. However, four of the nine people “suddenly became rich” between November and December 2020 and paid off all their bank loans. On Dec. 2, 2022, Steve Li paid off his property mortgage in Laguna City, Lam Tin, in one lump sum, becoming the last official on the sanction list to fully pay off their Hong Kong property mortgages.

On Jan. 5, 2021, the Hong Kong police conducted a dawn raid on the homes of a number of democracy activists and arrested 53 people. In a subsequent statement, Pompeo criticized the Hong Kong authorities for “another stark example undermining the fundamental freedom and the democratic process in Hong Kong.”

On Jan. 16, 2021, the United States expanded its sanctions against officials from both China and Hong Kong, including Tam Yiu-chung, former Legco member; You Quan, head of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the CCP; Frederic Choi Chin-pang, Director of the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force; Kelvin Kong Hok-lai, Assistant Commissioner (National Security) of the Hong Kong Police Force, and Kan Kai Yan, among others. They were all accused of being related to “the formulation, adoption, or implementation of national security laws.”

Kelvin Kong paid off the two mortgages on “The Riverpark” in Tai Wai, Sha Tin, held by himself within just over one month. He joined the Hong Kong Police Force in 1996, was promoted to Chief Superintendent in May 2018, and returned to the Security Department as Deputy Head of Department the following year. In July 2020, Kong was promoted and served as Assistant Commissioner of Police (National Security 2).

Kan Kai-yan joined the Hong Kong Police Force as an Inspector in 1991 and was responsible for duties in fields including operational command, human resources management, and security. He served successively as Deputy District Commander of Western District, District Commander of Airport District, District Commander of Wan Chai District, and Deputy District Commander of Hong Kong Island. In September 2019, when the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong was in full swing, Kan was promoted to Assistant Commissioner, in charge of the Service Quality Supervision Department. In August 2020, he was transferred to become Assistant Commissioner of Police (National Security) (1). In October 2021, he was promoted and served as Director of National Security, replacing the former Director Frederic Choi Chin-pang, who was transferred from his post.

Frederic Choi, who was also on the sanction list, was suspected of visiting vice girls at “unlicensed vice establishments” during his tenure in 2021. He was investigated for a time and has no luck in this round of promotions.

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