Beijing policy on Hong Kong remains the same after reshuffle
New men in top jobs are quick to clarify that ‘one country, two systems’ remains the leading principle and there will be no change in direction
With so much happening on the political horizon in Hong Kong and on the mainland, the last thing the city needs is uncertainty. In a welcome step, the new leaders of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and the central government liaison office have swiftly dispelled speculation that their latest personnel reshuffle signals a change in Beijing policy on city affairs.
The HKMAO is now headed by former liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming, after Wang Guangya stepped down at the age of 67. Zhang’s position in Hong Kong was filled by Wang Zhimin, who previously led the liaison office in Macau. Speaking on their first day in office on Monday, both men assured that Beijing would continue to implement “one country, two systems” unswervingly.
Zhang said he did not care about criticism of his work in Hong Kong, apparently referring to the perception of him being a hardliner on political issues. “What I did was right and complied with Beijing’s principles and policies,” he said. He also reiterated its zero tolerance approach towards independence. Wang also sought to assure the people of Hong Kong. “Our goals are the same. Our principle is one country, two systems,” he said.
The two bodies have different functions and roles. The liaison office is primarily responsible for exchanges with different sectors and mainland bodies in the city, while the HKMAO assists the premier in handling affairs related to Hong Kong and Macau, conducts relevant research and coordinates official contacts between the two cities and the mainland. Whether the new chiefs have work styles different from their predecessors remains to be seen, but the two bodies share a common goal – to implement Beijing’s policies in accordance with one country, two systems.
Concerns have been raised as to whether the reshuffle will have an impact on Beijing’s relationship with the pan-democrats. But as President Xi Jinping said in his keynote speech on July 1, it is in the interest of Beijing and Hong Kong to seek common ground while setting aside major differences. It is to be hoped that the personnel change will open doors for dialogue and cooperation.
Also worthy of attention are the relations between the two offices and the new government. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has made healing the social divide her priority. She is also mindful of the perception of the liaison office in some quarters, saying there is no need for the office to help lobby votes in the legislature. Whether the two can work out a new working relationship will be closely watched.