China appoints new director of HK and Macau affairs office

14-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Beijing has for the first time put a state leader, Xia Baolong, in charge of the cabinet-level office that oversees Hong Kong affairs, while reducing incumbent chief Zhang Xiaoming’s authority to that of executive deputy director.

The stunning reshuffle at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) coming after months of social turmoil and anti-government protest violence in Hong Kong, and as the city reels from the ongoing coronavirus crisis is seen as a demotion but still leaves Zhang running daily operations with his ministerial rank intact.

Xia, a vice-chair of the country’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, will be the HKMAO’s director. He is widely regarded as a trusted ally of President Xi Jinping, as they worked together for more than four years in Zhejiang province in the mid-2000s Xi as Communist Party chief and Xia his deputy.

A source familiar with the matter said the appointment of the 66-year-old Tianjin native would fix reporting-line issues because the HKMAO had effectively been “promoted” to a level above Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau.

“Although Zhang has become the deputy executive director in charge of daily operations now, his role has remained largely unchanged,” the source said, adding that the new structure also further improved communications between the HKMAO, which is in Beijing, and the liaison office based in Hong Kong.

In addition to Xia’s appointment, Beijing’s top envoys to Hong Kong and Macau will take up new roles in the HKMAO, too directors Luo Huining and Fu Ziying, of the Hong Kong and Macau liaison offices respectively, will double as deputy directors of Xia’s office and report to him.

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The shake-up comes about a month after Beijing replaced its top representative in Hong Kong in the first major leadership reshuffle since the anti-government protests broke out in June.

Luo Huining, a former provincial party chief with no relevant experience in Hong Kong, was called out of semi-retirement to take over from Wang Zhiming last month.

Wang was blamed in some quarters for the turmoil that escalated under his watch, as the protests first sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill expanded into a wider anti-government campaign that was marked by mass rallies and often-violent clashes.

Unlike Zhang, who gets to keep both his job portfolio and rank, Wang held on to his ministerial rank but was booted out of the Hong Kong-Macau supervisory system and was transferred to the history research unit under the party’s Central Committee.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she welcomed Xia’s appointment and looked forward to the office’s support over the work of the Hong Kong government.

“The appointment of Xia as the HKMAO director in addition to his capacity as the vice-Chair of the National Committee of the CPPCC is testimony to the importance the Central government attaches to Hong Kong and Macao affairs,” Lam said, in a statement that did not refer to Zhang.


Category: Hong Kong

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