Scandal scuttles Choi's chance of landing top job

Top News | Staff reporter 13 May 2021

Frederic Choi's massage parlor scandal has disrupted the police leadership path, even as Hong Kong's top cop, Chris Tang, insists the force has a comprehensive succession plan in place.

Sources said Tang, 55, could take up the post of secretary for security next year, with the deputy commissioner of operations, Raymond Siu Chak-yee, tipped to be the first in line to succeed him as commissioner.

Choi had been expected to succeed Siu as the "third generation" top cop, and could have taken up the post for about five years.

But the massage parlor scandal has put paid to Choi's ambition.

Rumors within the force said Siu was originally expected to take the top post only for a year or two. But with Choi out, Siu might have to be police commissioner a bit longer.

A veteran police officer said Choi, who joined the force in 1995, used to keep a low profile, had a good track record and was known for being reliable.

Having served in the force for almost 25 years, Choi had been mainly responsible for security-related intelligence and operations. After being appointed the director of national security, this meant he was trusted by Beijing, the officer said.

Choi was a rising star in the force, being promoted to chief superintendent in June 2017, assistant commissioner in January 2019 and senior assistant commissioner in July 2020, the officer added.

As the head of the police's new national security department, Choi was sanctioned by the United States in January, alongside commissioner Chris Tang and deputy police commissioner for national security Edwina Lau Chi-wai.

Choi was then commended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for his significant contribution to safeguarding national security in February.

Choi was already seen as the successor of Siu at the end of 2019, after the then-assistant police commissioner for operations, Terence Mak Chin-ho, asked in a rare move to take up the post of New Territories North regional commander.

Mak had been tipped to succeed Siu but his move was interpreted as a withdrawal from the race for the top police job.

It is understood that Mak and Choi are of the same age, but Mak joined the force earlier than Choi.

It will be a two-horse race between Joe Chow Yat-ming, director of personnel and training, and assistant police commissioner for operations Johnson Chan Joon-sun to replace Choi.

Chow has gained internal approval for his handling of the siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019 during the anti-fugitive bill movement, and therefore is currently favored over Chan, say police sources.

Chief Superintendent Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen of the police public relations branch, known for giving police briefings during the 2019 movement, could also be in line for succession after having been the deputy to two commissioners.

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