HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s justice chief is leaving his job earlier than expected amid rising turmoil over the semiautonomous Chinese city’s judiciary.
The government said Friday that Rimsky Yuen is stepping down as the city’s top law enforcement officer.
Yuen, who was reappointed for a second five-year term in July, will be replaced by Teresa Cheng, a lawyer and arbitration expert, after her nomination was approved by Beijing.
Yuen’s tenure was marked by a number of controversies over rule of law.
Activists criticized Yuen, 53, for using the law to clamp down on growing dissent through heavy-handed prosecutions of pro-democracy leaders involved in 2014’s massive “Umbrella Movement” and other protests, many of whom were sent to prison.
He led government efforts to disqualify a group of newly elected opposition lawmakers from office over irregularities in their oaths of office.
Yuen also played a key role in pushing through plans for a cross-border express rail terminal in a downtown district that involves stationing mainland Chinese immigration agents in the city. The plans raised concerns about mainland authorities enforcing the law on Hong Kong soil, which pro-democracy lawmakers and activists say is a breach of Beijing’s agreement to let the city keep wide autonomy and a separate legal system following its 1997 handover from Britain.
Yuen said at a news conference that “at different stages of life, one should do different things,” without elaborating.
Cheng, 59, said that her prime mission would be “to uphold the rule of law.”