Beijing’s new enforcer in Hong Kong

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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).

Wang had “failed to paint an accurate picture of the situation” in Hong Kong for his bosses, and insisted that the protests only had minority support, which is probably why he was removed, RTHK reports. Respected political commentator Zhāng Lìfán 章立凡 also says (in Chinese) that Wang’s misjudgments about the situation in Hong Kong had made life more difficult for Beijing.

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 Qinghai, 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.

More from the City of Protest

In Luo’s first statement in his new position, he “gave little clue” to the precise direction Beijing’s policy toward Hong Kong would go, Agence France-Presse reports. He merely stated, “Everyone earnestly hopes that Hong Kong can return to the right path.”

Reuters also has a related list: Key facts about new head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

RT, the Russian state television network, is contributing to Beijing’s disinformation efforts on Hong Kong, Quartz reports. “After the RT video, called Hong Kong Unmasked, was shared this month on Chinese social media platform Weibo, it gained a surge of praise in recent days for offering the ‘true’ version of events in Hong Kong.”

Even if current protests die down or are successfully suppressed, more unrest may follow when Beijing likely gives Carrie Lam  (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) — or whoever is chief executive some months down the line — the task to implement the “Article 23” national security law, EJ Insight reports. Such a security law would likely follow the model implemented in Macau, where using the territory as a “base to subvert China” becomes a harshly punishable crime.