Former Hong Kong police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung has lost his bid to lead the United Nations Vienna office, the organisation’s third-largest headquarters.
Tsang lost to Egypt’s minister of social solidarity Ghada Fathi Waly, who will also be heading the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Despite China’s backing, Tsang fell out of favour as the UN considered the appointment of a veteran member of the Hong Kong police a “diplomatically unsafe” decision, according to a diplomatic source with knowledge of the selection process.
“The timing could not be more wrong, after the last five or six months of unprecedented chaos in Hong Kong, much of which directly or indirectly related to police conduct,” the source said, referring to the ongoing anti-government protests.
The UN also took into account the controversy surrounding the June selection of Qu Dongyu to lead the UN food and agriculture organisation, the source said, when the Chinese delegation faced accusations of pressuring African countries to vote in its favour. The accusations were denied.
The position for which Tsang was vying, in contrast, was selected directly by Guterres.
In June, the South China Morning Post reported China’s nomination of Tsang to lead what is effectively the UN’s third-largest headquarters, based in the Austrian capital. A day later, the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed his nomination which, it said, showed “China stands fast on multilateralism and supports the work of the UN”.
Commenting on the appointment of Waly, Dujarric said: “[This] brings to the position [as leader of the UNODC] more than 30 years of experience in the field of sustainable development, poverty reduction and social protection, women and youth empowerment.”
Waly will succeed Yury Fedotov of Russia.
Tsang said in a statement that he was grateful for China’s nomination.
“Over the past few months, it has been an opportunity to show the determination of the country and myself to promote global anti-drug, crime fighting, anti-corruption and counter-terrorism cooperation through UNODC,” Tsang said.
He wished Waly success in leading the work of the office, and said he would continue to contribute to anti-drug work in his capacity as deputy director of China’s National Narcotic Control Committee.
Tsang, who retired from the police department in 2015, had been a divisive figure in Hong Kong because of his tough approach to handling protests, most notably during the Occupy protests, also known as the “umbrella movement”, in 2014.
He was commissioner of the police force at the time, when tear gas was fired into the largely peaceful crowds calling for greater democracy in the former British colony. His approach was criticised by human rights activists, but won applause from pro-Beijing politicians and police officers.
During his time in office, Hong Kong crime rates dropped to their lowest levels since 1997. Tsang also overhauled and reformed the police department’s anti-terrorism units.
After his retirement, he attained jobs on the national level, first as a delegate to a largely ceremonial body advising the Beijing government, and then, two months ago, as a deputy director of China’s paramount anti-drugs body.
He was described by the Chinese government as being capable of “using his experience with organised crime in Hong Kong to join the fight”.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung
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This article Former Hong Kong top cop Andy Tsang misses out on plum UN posting first appeared on South China Morning Post