Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
The Hong Kong Liaison Office is the top representative of the Beijing government in Hong Kong. The Office has two roles: to communicate the policies and desires of the Communist Party to Hong Kong’s decreasingly autonomous government, and to keep the Chinese Communist Party’s leaders informed of the situation in Hong Kong.
After more than six months of protests, with clear demands for government concessions and an election where pro-Beijing candidates were routed, the Party has decided the leader of the Hong Kong Liaison Office has failed. Wáng Zhìmín 王志民, who has spent most of his career working on Hong Kong issues for the Party and has headed the Office since 2017, was “abruptly replaced on Saturday evening,” and replaced with Luò Huìníng 骆惠宁, “a senior Communist Party official with a record of difficult assignments in inland provinces that involved working closely with the security services,” per the New York Times (porous paywall, or see RTHK for further speculation on the reasons for Wang’s removal).
What does this mean for Hong Kong?
Beijing’s new man in Hong Kong does not speak Cantonese, and has no experience in the city. But he does have a history of enforcing hardline policies in a province with a large Tibetan population, and of conducting anti-corruption purges of Party members on behalf of top leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.
Luo is an enforcer. He’s not there to listen, but to crack heads.