A vice-minister of foreign affairs is tipped to succeed Liao Hui as director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, a position Liao has held since the handover in 1997. People familiar with the situation said an announcement would be made in the next few weeks about Liao stepping down as the office's director. Vice-minister of foreign affairs Wang Guangya, also party secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has emerged as the favourite to fill Liao's shoes. The sources said Liao, 68, would quit as deputy head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs. But he would remain a member of the party's central committee and vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Sources also said the central government considered it was an appropriate time for Liao to retire because issues such as constitutional reform in Hong Kong had been resolved. Wang, 60, is son-in-law of late marshal and former foreign minister Chen Yi. Liao's late father, Liao Chengzhi, was the leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs between the 1950s and the early 1980s. A veteran diplomat, Wang became vice-minister of foreign affairs in 1999 and was China's ambassador to the United Nations from 2003 to 2008. One of the priorities for Liao's successor will be handling the 2012 chief executive election and Hong Kong's political reform. CPPCC Standing Committee member Chan Wing-kee said he had not heard about Liao's imminent retirement. 'But judging from Wang Guangya's curriculum vitae, he is an ideal candidate to succeed Liao as director,' Chan said. Observers said Wang's lack of experience in Hong Kong affairs would be one of his shortcomings. But Chan said the overall strategy on Hong Kong affairs had been laid down by the mainland's top leadership. 'Whoever succeeds Liao doesn't make a difference,' Chan said. A pro-Beijing politician said it would be appropriate for the central government to name a new office director by the end of the year. 'If the new director took the helm next year, it would be too late for him to familiarise himself with Hong Kong affairs and the operations of the office before the 2012 chief executive election,' the politician said.