Beijing picks Hong Kong liaison office spokesman Li Gang as Macau chief

After nine years at central government liaison office, Li Gang is promoted in recognition of hard work and handling of tough issues in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 3:14am

Li Gang, deputy director and spokesman of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, will become Beijing's top representative in Macau early next year.

Beijing sources confirmed to the South China Morning Post yesterday that the promotion was in recognition of Li's work in the city.

It comes as part of the reshuffle of officials with Hong Kong and Macau responsibilities after the 18th party congress.

Li's position in Hong Kong gives him the rank of deputy minister in China's political hierarchy, but being head of the Macau office would elevate him to minister.

His experience in handling tough issues in Hong Kong is seen as having equipped him to cope with the various challenges Macau is facing.

The former Portuguese colony is looking to diversify its economic development from its traditional casino business.

It is not clear who will succeed Li as the Hong Kong office spokesman. The office is headed by Peng Qinghua , with seven deputies. At the end of the party congress last month, Li, 57, was re-elected as a member of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Veteran political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said while the chief posts were usually filled by Central Committee members, Li's experience as deputy head of the Hong Kong office made him a suitable choice for the Macau job. "The Macau office is relatively relaxed compared to the troubles you face on a daily basis in the Hong Kong office," Lau said.

"Li is familiar with the [political] situations in Hong Kong and Macau."

Lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said Li was the right choice after nine years in Hong Kong.

"He has worked in Hong Kong a long time and often answered media questions well," Tam said.

Li was known for his involvement in the office's negotiations with the Democratic Party over electoral reform in 2010, which helped to ensure the approval by the Legislative Council of the government's revisions.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who met Li for the talks, recalled him as being "a courteous man".

Ho said: "He was polite, but he was just executing his boss' commands … so it could be meaningless in showing what kind of man he is."

With personnel changes at the Hong Kong office, Ho said "the invisible hand" would become "more and more active".

He was referring to claims that the liaison office has been meddling more in local affairs.