Beijing replaces HK official with hardliner
Beijing has replaced the head of its office overseeing Hong Kong with a political hardliner and ally of President Xi Jinping, signalling a more hands-on approach in its management of the Chinese-ruled city after often violent anti-government protests.
The restructuring removes Zhang Xiaoming as director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), to be replaced by Xia Baolong, a vice- chairman of top advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s human resources ministry said on Thursday.
Zhang, 56, is the most senior Chinese official to lose their job after protests escalated in Hong Kong last June over a bill that would have allowed people to be extradited to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
The removal of Zhang, who will remain with the HKMAO as deputy director in charge of daily operations, follows Beijing’s January move to replace the head of its Hong Kong liaison office.
Xia becomes the first official with no previous Hong Kong or diplomatic experience to take the job. “The importance is not their lack of Hong Kong experience but their closeness and loyalty to Xi,” said Hong Kong-based political commentator.