China’s state appointed a new top liaison official for Hong Kong, replacing the former director amid months of protests in the financial hub.
Luo Huining will take over from Wang Zhimin as the Hong Kong liaison office director, the government said in a two-sentence statement that didn’t elaborate on the changes.
Wang was former director of China’s liaison office in Macau before he was appointed the top representative in Hong Kong in 2017. Luo served as Shanxi party secretary from 2016 until November last year. He was made deputy chairman of the financial and economic committee of the National People’s Congress a month later.
Hong Kong has been gripped by more than six months of often-violent protests by activists demanding greater autonomy from Beijing. China’s government has consistently backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam, including on a visit to Beijing she made to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in mid-December.
Why Hong Kong Is Still Protesting and Where It May Go: QuickTake
Wang last month didn’t respond to a Reuters report that he could be replaced.
“Me, my team and colleagues in the China Liaison office will continue to perform faithfully the duties granted by the central government,” Wang said then. The liaison office will also firmly support Hong Kong’s police in strictly enforcing the law, and the judiciary in punishing violent crimes in accordance with rules, he said.
With support for the protesters undiminished after months of violent unrest, speculation of Wang’s removal from the position has been growing, particularly after pro-government candidates suffered a resounding defeat in Hong Kong district council elections in November.
“Wang’s dismissal was long predicted because he appeared to be associated too closely with the pro-Beijing elites and business leaders, without reaching out widely to all social sectors especially the poor and the needy,” Sonny Lo, a Hong Kong based political commentator, said Saturday. “Also, his miscalculations of Hong Kong” may have led to his downfall, “especially after the 2019 District Council elections,” he said.
Lam praised Wang for his “staunch support” for the government’s efforts “to curb violence and uphold the rule of law,” in a statement on the government’s website. She also welcomed Luo and said that under his leadership the liaison office worked to promote “prosperity and stability” and “the integration of Hong Kong into the overall development of the nation and the positive development of the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong.”
Lam’s administration proposed a bill last year that would allow extraditions to China for the first time. While she has since withdrawn the legislation, she refused to meet additional demands including an independent inquiry into police violence and direct leadership elections.
Xi used his New Year’s Eve address to defend China’s system for running Hong Kong, in an unusually high-profile acknowledgment of the Asian financial center’s political turmoil.
“Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work?” Xi asked. “I sincerely wish Hong Kong well. Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation of our motherland.”
Luo worked for the Anhui government between 1982 and 1999. In 2010, he was appointed governor of Qinghai before being made party secretary in the province in 2013.