Xi Jinping's HK role hailed as welcome news for the city
Denise Hung and Ambrose Leung
Xi Jinping , a new Politburo Standing Committee member, has officially succeeded Vice-President Zeng Qinghong as Beijing's top man overseeing Hong Kong affairs.
Chen Zuoer, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told Hong Kong reporters in Beijing that Mr Xi had taken up the post of the head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Mr Chen is the first top official to formally confirm Mr Xi's new portfolio, which had been widely tipped in Hong Kong's political circles in the past two weeks.
The appointment of Mr Xi, who is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, is seen as a reflection of the importance attached by the central government to Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Lo Man-tuen, a local delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a core member of the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations, said he had known Mr Xi for about two decades.
He said Mr Xi, who has served as Fujian governor and party secretary of Zhejiang , was acquainted with Hong Kong affairs, as many Hong Kong businessmen invested in the two provinces.
'Mr Xi knows Hong Kong affairs well through communication with a lot of businessmen who migrated to Hong Kong from Fujian, Zhejiang and even Shanghai,' Mr Lo said, adding the state leader was open-minded and prudent.
Legislator Choy So-yuk, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Mr Xi kept good relations with the 'Fujian Gang', local politicians and businessmen whose ancestral homes are in the province.
Ms Choy also said Mr Xi, 54, had visited Hong Kong to promote economic ties when he worked in Fujian and Zhejiang.
Mr Xi has worked in Fujian for 17 years and served as party secretary of Shanghai before being promoted to the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo last month.
Thomas Chan Man-hung, head of Hong Kong Polytechnic University's China Business Centre, said given Mr Xi's status among the mainland's next generation of leaders, he would try to make an impact on Hong Kong policy.
'I believe that Hong Kong policy under his leadership will no longer be as short-sighted as we have seen until now,' said Professor Chan, a long-time China watcher.