Nanfang Media group chairman Yang Jian will arrive in Hong Kong this month to fill the vacancy left by central government liaison office deputy director Li Gang, who is expected to become director of the liaison office in Macau.
Yang was picked to oversee the central government's publicity agenda in Hong Kong because he was familiar with media operations in the city and had built up a network of contacts in the Hong Kong media after spending years as a propaganda official in Guangdong, sources said.
Yang was only made chairman of the Nanfang Media group in March, replacing Yang Xingfeng , who had reached the official retirement age of 60.
Yang, 54, became a deputy director of the Guangdong propaganda department in 2007. Before that he had been president of the Guangdong branch of Xinhua from 2000.
Meanwhile, Guangdong has appointed an experienced censor who has never worked in the media to succeed Yang.
Mo Gaoyi , deputy director of the provincial government's propaganda department, will succeed Yang as Nanfang group chairman, according to a handful of media sources who confirmed his appointment.
Two of the mainland's most outspoken and respected newspapers, the Southern Weekly and the Southern Metropolis Daily are sister publications of the group's flagship Nanfang Daily.
Mo is viewed as a shrewd propaganda official, skilful in handling the media when mass protests occur and championing the timely release of information instead of muzzling media coverage.
Former Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang was praised for his handling of a massive riot by migrant workers in Guangzhou's Xintang township in 2011 and other riots in Shanwei, eastern Guangdong.
It is understood that Mo's propaganda work in "guiding press coverage and public opinion" on the riots contributed to Wang's political achievement.
In January, staff at the Southern Weekly engaged in a stand-off with the authorities over alterations to its New Year edition. Their short-lived strike attracted international headlines.
Mo's appointment has sparked concerns among observers in Guangdong that it is a sign the government will not relax control over the Nanfang group.
"This is a political arrangement to assign an outsider with a similar censorship background as Yang to head the media group, as opposed to identifying a seasoned journalist within the Nanfang group, for the [Communist] party to continue maintaining tight control over the media," one source said.
However, Professor Yuan Weishi , a Guangzhou-based historian, said appointing propaganda officials to head media outlets was routine.