Hong Kong security chief

Beijing has appointed an official who became prominent during a clampdown on protests in a Chinese village as director of its new national security office in Hong Kong, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Zheng Yanxiong, 56, most recently served as the secretary general of the Communist Party committee of Guangdong province, an economic powerhouse bordering Hong Kong. He is among a host of officials appointed by Beijing in recent months as it tightens control over the former British colony.

The new security agency was established under national security legislation imposed by China this week on Hong Kong that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.

During Zheng’s tenure as party chief of the Guangdong city of Shanwei, authorities clamped down on protesters in 2011 in a village under its jurisdiction, named Wukan.

Thousands of residents had sought compensation for land requisitioned by the government and elected a committee to represent their rights. They also aired their grievances to foreign media.  Video clips that were leaked from an internal government meeting at the time showed Zheng harshly criticising the villagers and calling foreign media“rotten”.