- ‘One country, two systems’ remains best way forward as Xia Baolong, a trusted ally of President Xi Jinping, takes over at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office
Concerns have been raised following a major shake-up at the State Council's office overseeing the special administrative regions.
For the first time, a state leader, Xia Baolong, has been put in charge of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), while Beijing's envoys at liaison offices in the two cities will double as his deputy directors. It is to be hoped that the restructuring can improve the implementation of "one country, two systems".
The unexpected reshuffle amid the city's twin woes of coronavirus and social unrest has inevitably raised eyebrows.
Widely seen as a trusted ally of President Xi Jinping, Xia, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, has a reputation for being hard-handed.
But his appointment as head of the office also means it has been raised to another level, a move seen as strengthening Beijing's supervision over the implementation of its policies in both Hong Kong and Macau.
The elevation, along with the liaison office chiefs becoming deputies, may also improve coordination with the HKMAO playing the role of facilitator between the cities and the central government.
The arrangement under which former director Zhang Xiaoming will remain as deputy overseeing daily operations, while also staying on as a member of the powerful working group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs under Vice-Premier Han Zheng, should also enhance stability and continuity.
Coming after months of political turmoil sparked by protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, the earlier replacement of liaison office director Wang Zhimin by Luo Huining had fuelled speculation, and comparisons have now been drawn to the case of Zhang.
Xia Baolong " from toppling crosses to overseeing Hong Kong affairs
If the moves are meant to show the need for greater accountability, they also underline the importance of Beijing relying on officials familiar with city affairs.
The restructuring does not mean policies regarding the city will be relaxed, but it shows the central government is determined to see order and stability restored. One country, two systems remains the best way forward. How this will shape cooperation between the chief executive and the authorities under the latest framework shall be closely watched.
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