China nominates Hong Kong Occupy-era police chief for UN post

Demonstrators hold yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill, in Hong Kong on April 28, 2019.
Demonstrators hold yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill, in Hong Kong on April 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - China nominated a former Hong Kong police chief to lead the UN's drug crimes division, the South China Morning Post reported, the first time it has sought a global post since detaining Interpol's chief last year.

Mr Andy Tsang Wai-hung, 61, who oversaw the Hong Kong police during the 2014 Occupy Central protests, was in Vienna last month to canvas for votes to lead the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the newspaper said, citing a person with knowledge of the situation.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was expected to select the new executive director in a few months, replacing Russia's Yury Fedotov.

The push may raise eyebrows after China's detention of former Interpol President Meng Hongwei last year during a trip home from his base in France.

The move raised questions about China's respect for international norms and its opaque legal system. Authorities have since expelled Meng from the Communist Party and charged him with bribery.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing didn't immediately respond Wednesday to a faxed request for comment.

China is also among a handful of nations that put people to death for drug-related offenses, including foreigners.

In January, China sentenced Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for drug trafficking, drawing claims of political motivation as Ottawa and Beijing spar over the US extradition case against a top Huawei Technologies Co executive.

 
 
 

Mr Tsang's nomination could also be controversial for his management of the Occupy protests, during which tear gas was used on pro-democracy demonstrators.

That shone a spotlight on government efforts to clamp down on activists in the former British colony, with the gatherings of mostly students dubbed the "Umbrella Movement" after they used umbrellas to shield themselves from the pepper spray.

Concerns over the autonomy of Hong Kong's judicial system have increased, as the Beijing-backed government seeks an extradition bill that critics say could be used to target dissidents living in the city.

That legislation may have helped drive a record turnout of more than 180,000 on Tuesday night for Hong Kong's annual vigil to remember the Chinese military's crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Police put the number of attendees at 37,000.

If Mr Tsang got the job, he would be the second city official selected by China to run a major UN branch, the South China Morning Post said.

Mr Tsang led the delegation to Vienna, where UNODC is based, in his capacity as deputy director of China's National Narcotics Control Commission.