Xia Baolong, 67, the vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, will replace Zhang Xiaoming as director of the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office, the State Council said Thursday.
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.
Xia is a former close aide to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and served as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of Zhejiang Province during a crackdown on Christian churches. The statement announcing Xia's new title Thursday also made clear for the first time that the chief liaison reports directly to the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office.
The Communist Party issued a communique late previous year signaling greater intervention in everything from education in Hong Kong to how the city picks its leader.
American Airlines Group Inc, the largest USA carrier, said on Tuesday it was extending the suspension of its China and Hong Kong flights through April 24, amid reduced demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Xia's appointment came as much of the region was focused on China's sudden replacement of top officials in virus-stricken Hubei.
SpiceJet will finally discontinue its daily Delhi-Hong Kong flight from Saturday (February 16).
The personnel changes are aimed at boosting coordination between Beijing and Hong Kong, Cabestan said, as well as giving more support to the pro-establishment camp in Hong Kong's Legislative Council.
Xia was known for his hardline ideology in a 2014 campaign to tear down thousands of crosses and many underground churches in the province while he later took charge of Zhejiang as its party secretary - a post he held until 2017. "We can expect that to continue", Cabestan said.
Zhang had backed the controversial extradition bill, telling a visiting Hong Kong delegation how urgent it was that Hong Kong pass the measure, Reuters reported in December.
China's new Liaison Office director, Luo Huining, wrote in January in the official People's Daily of the need to "establish and ideal the national security protection legal system and executive mechanism, as well as strengthening law enforcement".
Luo Huining, head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, and Fu Ziying, who heads the Macau liaison office, will also be given the role of deputy director while still keeping their existing roles.