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Hong Kong localism and independence

Top Beijing official in Hong Kong invokes Faye Wong song in claim he’s ‘never far away’ from city

Zhang Xiaoming’s comments come as China’s cabinet reveals his successor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 8:41pm

The retiring director of Beijing’s agency responsible for Hong Kong affairs has urged the city to leave years of political strife behind and focus on economic development instead.

Stepping down after seven years as head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Wang Guangya, 67, praised his successor, Zhang Xiaoming, as more capable than himself.

Wang called on Hongkongers to support Zhang, 54, director of the central government’s liaison office in the city, who was officially appointed to take over Wang’s post on Friday afternoon.

Before flying off to Beijing in the morning, Zhang advised Hongkongers to believe in themselves, their city and their country.

He also recalled President Xi Jinping’s speech in July as clearly stating the “three beliefs” for the direction the city should take.

“Xi also earnestly called for the various sectors in the community to believe in themselves, believe in Hong Kong and believe in the country,” Zhang said.

“Our country and citizens are catching up with the great times. Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability are essentially safeguarded. I strongly believe Hongkongers’ livelihoods will be better.”

And to describe his emotional attachment to Hong Kong, he quoted lyrics from a song made famous by Canto-pop star Faye Wong: “I have always been by your side, never far away.”

Liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming to leave Hong Kong for Beijing post, source says

Wrapping up his work, Wang suggested the majority of citizens in Hong Kong supported the country’s development and believed a better nation would lead to a better Hong Kong. But he conceded there was also dissent in the city.

“There was too much political strife over the past few years,” he said. “People have to shift their attention to economic development, livelihood improvement and safeguarding Hong Kong’s harmony and stability.”

If that could be done, he said, the situation in Hong Kong would improve in the next few years.

On the controversy over independence advocacy, Wang said both the local and central governments should handle the matter, and that both Hongkongers and their government should speak out over such issues with clear positions on right and wrong.

Zhang took up his post in Hong Kong in December 2012 and became known for his firm stance against Beijing’s critics. On National Day in 2014, days after the pro-democracy Occupy protests broke out, he famously said with a slight smile: “The sun rises as usual.”

Pan-democrats have accused his office of interfering in local affairs over the last few years by lobbying lawmakers for the administration, coordinating the pro-Beijing camp’s strategy and mobilising supporters during the Legislative Council elections.

Invoking an ancient Chinese poem before boarding his flight to the capital, Zhang said he was departing with “no wind, nor rain and no sunshine”.

Zhang’s former post was taken by over by Wang Zhimin, the current head of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau.

According to the liaison office’s website, Wang Zhimin said in an internal meeting that the reshuffle indicated how the central government highly valued and fully endorsed the work that had been done in Hong Kong.

He said he was glad to return to Hong Kong, calling the city his “second home” where he had worked and lived in for about 15 years.

He pledged to support the chief executive and the local government in developing the economy and improving the livelihoods of Hongkongers.

In the 1990s, Wang worked at the Xinhua agency – the liaison office’s predecessor – in Hong Kong, and later served as a deputy director of the office from 2009 to 2015.

Meanwhile acting chief executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung congratulated Zhang and said the liaison office under his leadership had spared no effort in fostering a closer relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong. Cheung welcomed Wang Zhimin and wished the retiring Wang Guangya good health.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu blamed Zhang for political polarisation in the city, while Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun called for the new Zhang’s successor to better reflect Hong Kong to Beijing.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king disagreed with claims that Zhang was a hardliner, saying she believed Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong would not change.