Kurt Tong will be the new US Consul General to Hong Kong beginning August this year, a month ahead of the Legislative Council election, and just months before two other major elections in the city.
Tong’s previous positions were mostly in the business sector. Before accepting his new role, Tong spent two years as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State in Washington DC.
Tong – a Japanese speaker – was also Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’Affaires in Tokyo. He also had earlier postings in Beijing, Seoul, Manila and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum since becoming a diplomat in 1990.
Like his predecessors Clifford Hart and Stephen Young, Tong can speak Mandarin, as he studied in Beijing and Taipei after graduating from Princeton University.
Tong visited Hong Kong last November on a trip related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Neither China nor Hong Kong have shown interest in joining the US trade partnership.
He reportedly said Hong Kong should evaluate whether to join the TPP and that an invitation was not needed to join. Tong said that TPP member states would take any interest from Hong Kong seriously, as the city has long been a member of APEC.
As Tong arrives in August, three important elections for the city are set to take place.
The Legislative Council election is scheduled for September 4. The subsector ordinary elections for the Election Committee – a 1,200-member body that elects the Chief Executive – is due to take place on December 11. And the government announced on Friday that the coming Chief Executive Election will be held on March 26, 2017.
Tong will succeed Clifford Hart, who enjoyed a three-year tenure in Hong Kong – around the same duration as Hart’s predecessor Stephen Young.
Hart was known for his social media presence. He often appeared in videos speaking Cantonese, and was even branded by netizens as “Clifford BB.”
The next stop for Hart is not yet known.