Cabinet reshuffle sees Maria Tam appointed vice-chairwoman of top mainland think tank on Hong Kong

Former Beijing official, Xu Ze appointed new chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 11:16pm

Pro-Beijing political heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu has been given a key position in the central government’s top think tank on Hong Kong after a leadership ­reshuffle on Saturday.

The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies has also recruited more Hongkongers to its ranks, to highlight the “great importance” of the city.

The association’s vice-chairman Professor Lau Siu-kai also confirmed that a former Beijing official, Xu Ze, who has handled Hong Kong affairs for more than three decades, had replaced Chen Zuoer as chairman.

The group reshuffled its cabinet on Saturday and endorsed Tam, a member of the Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, as association vice-chairwoman alongside the existing eight deputies, Lau said.

Beijing officials’ remarks on ‘insincere oaths’ not laws but a ‘persuasive explanation’, Maria Tam says

He said the association also raised the number of members from 66 to 89 and that more Hongkongers were now in the group, which was largely made up of mainlanders in the past.

“The group created an extra deputy position and Tam has taken the place. We also have more members from Hong Kong and from Macau,” Lau said.

“This is to highlight that the group attaches great importance to Hong Kong.”

Commenting on the appointment of the new chairman, Lau said he had known Xu for more than a few decades and said he was very familiar with the city.

“Xu is very pragmatic and low key. He had handled many issues related to Hong Kong in the past,” Lau said.

“He can also communicate with Hongkongers as he speaks fluent Cantonese after spending a long period of time studying and working in Guangdong.”

Xu, who was born in Shantou in Guangdong, joined the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in 1982 and took part in work related to the drafting of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, from the mid-1980s.

Xu became deputy director in 2001 and deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau three years later. He returned to the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office as deputy director in 2013 and retired two years ago.

The association was set up in December 2013, two days after Hong Kong began a public ­consultation on arrangements for electing the chief executive in 2017.