The mainland official responsible for Hong Kong affairs yesterday dismissed speculation that the central government was seeking to oust Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, insisted that Beijing still backed Leung, following speculation in sections of the Hong Kong media that a successor was under consideration.
Instead, Wang expressed his support for Leung to a delegation representing Hong Kong's farming sector, who met him behind closed doors in Beijing.
It is the first time Beijing has expressed support for Leung since his top ally, former executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, became embroiled in a police investigation into the failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx), which Cheung founded. On Friday he resigned from all his public posts, including membership of Exco.
"Director Wang reiterated that the central government has no Plan B," said Chan Yung, who is also a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, referring to suggestions that Beijing was considering a replacement for Leung.
"The central government has noted that [Leung's administration] has not had a smooth start but they hope all sectors in Hong Kong can stay united and focus on improving the economy and people's livelihood," Chan said.
"[They hope people will] support the government and Leung Chun-ying - yes, his name was mentioned - to implement policies in accordance with the law."
According to Chan, Wang also noted that some Hongkongers had proposed "a political topic even Hong Kong people don't understand" - a reference to plans by the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement for a civil disobedience campaign.
Wang said he hoped people would hold rational discussions instead of indulging in confrontation, Chan said, adding that there was no discussion of political reform.
Rumours about Leung being replaced featured in an article published on Wednesday by Next Magazine, which said that Beijing had started looking for a replacement, just as it had replaced Tung Chee-hwa with Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2005.
Five candidates were being considered, according to Next, including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and lawmaker and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
Ip said yesterday she had not heard of a plan to replace Leung.
Leung denied on Tuesday that there was any move to replace him.