Cadre from Xi Jinping’s graft squad joins Beijing’s Hong Kong office
Pan Shengzhou sent to represent central government’s top discipline team at HKMAO
A man who worked on President Xi Jinping’s reform task force has joined the leadership of Beijing’s office that oversees Hong Kong affairs.
Mainland press reported the switch on Thursday after Pan Shengzhou’s name was quietly added to the website of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO). He will run discipline inspection within the office.
In 2009 Pan, a Shandong native and a farming expert, became deputy chief of the Policy Research Office of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. In 2013, he also became deputy director of the general office of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, a powerful team founded and chaired by Xi to oversee changes to the country’s political, economic and defence systems.
In 2016 he was on the central committee’s 25-member publicity team, which was tasked with speaking about the party congress’s decisions in different parts of the country.
At the HKMAO he will represent the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the nation’s top graft-buster. He is the second person sent from the CCDI to the HKMAO, after Li Qiufang, who is reportedly expected to retire soon.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said he expected Pan to help Xi better understand local affairs, if the two had had a working relationship.
He also noted that Pan had been on the publicity team, “the group that has the most authoritative grasp of the central government’s policy”.
“We are now having more and more officials from outside taking the helm at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office,” Lau said. “It may be a good thing to have a fresh eye to put Hong Kong in the context of the country’s overall situation.”
He said he did not think the move signalled Beijing’s tightening grip over Hong Kong.
Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu went further, describing Pan as Xi’s “anointed messenger”.
“He will be there to continue Xi’s anti-corruption campaign,” Lau said.
Last year, the CCDI sent officers to the HKMAO, as well as other agencies, as part of Xi’s ongoing drive covering all party and central government organs and state enterprises.
In October, the graft-buster said the HKMAO leadership was “not strong enough”, and the implementation of the central leadership’s decisions “not firm”.
It urged the office to watch for “corruption risks” and step up monitoring on the use of funds.
Tian Feilong, a mainland scholar from Beihang University focusing on the Basic Law, said he believed Pan would help Hong Kong better position itself in the mainland’s ‘Belt and Road’ economic blueprint.
Additional reporting by Stuart Lau