Artist. Propagandist. Urban planning enthusiast. Traditional Chinese medicine student. Zheng Yanxiong doesn’t fit the usual mold of a top Communist Party security agent.

Zheng’s eclectic background suggests someone who will bring a broad approach to running the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, the powerful and secretive agency China created to implement a new security law in the former British colony. The office will "oversee and provide guidance” to Hong Kong authorities and be accountable to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government.

The law gives Zheng, 57, broad authority to gather intelligence, select some "complex” cases for prosecution in mainland courts and regulate foreign media outlets. That could become more important as American journalists in Hong Kong become potential targets for retaliation and tensions between the U.S. and China escalate.