For almost two decades, Beijing had hoped Hong Kong would run itself on the model of the old colonial administration, with a bit more democratic reform thrown in than what the British had allowed. That has turned out to be an illusion. Piecemeal electoral reform was not enough for many Hong Kong people; they want it all the way. Hong Kong has turned out to be extremely high maintenance. Neither the locals nor their government have worked out under “one country, two systems” as envisioned by Beijing. Now, all the reform progress has to be rolled back under the new mantra: “Only patriotic Hong Kong people can rule Hong Kong.” The central government has finally come to terms with this reality. That’s the context in which the liaison office in Hong Kong is being revamped and, in effect, upgraded. Correspondingly, the autonomy of the Hong Kong government has been gradually downgraded. Under the new revamp, half of the liaison office personnel will be rotated out, with 100 new staff added to the headcount. Led by seasoned politician Luo Huining, many are experienced operatives in different policy areas; the focus, however, is not on their previous exposure or experience with Hong Kong affairs. At the same time, Shi Kehui, Guangdong’s anti-corruption chief, has been moved to the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) in Beijing. The old Hong Kong hands have turned out to be a big disappointment. Wang Zhimin, former head of the liaison office, and Zhang Xiaoming, former HKMAO director, now demoted to deputy director, had extensive experience with the city’s affairs. Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong ‘more confident’ in city, gives free market assurance Fairly or not, they were blamed for both the official handling of the unprecedented unrest of 2019 as well as the anti-government landslide vote in the district council elections in the same year. Their theory of “a silent majority” against the protests and riots turned out to be completely false. If ever there is an intricate connection or continuum of a country’s foreign and domestic policies, Hong Kong has become a prime example. Previously a mostly apolitical financial hub, it has become an important chess piece in China’s rivalry with the West, primarily with the United States. Local social discontent and democratic agitation have been internationalised into flashpoints with Washington, which is keen on exploiting any domestic weaknesses of China. In this great game of nations, the Hong Kong government will be increasingly marginalised to play no more than a supporting or administrative role.