All the president’s men – the key players at Xi Jinping’s side in Hong Kong

The handful of trusted officials include party big shots and close companions, such as the PLA’s top general, who are rarely seen during the leader’s trips

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 6:38pm

As President Xi Jinping landed in Hong Kong for the first time as the country’s top leader on Thursday, he and his wife were accompanied by a pool of officials in charge of Beijing’s policies for the city.

The handful of officials, most of them Xi’s trusted aides, include party big shots involved in top-level policymaking, government and foreign affairs. They include companions rarely seen in Xi’s domestic and overseas trips, such as the PLA’s top general, and those who run the nerve hubs of China’s legislature and consultation body that ensure the loyalty of social elites.

The offices involved cover all channels of command between Beijing and Hong Kong. So who are they and what do they do?

Wang Huning: the president’s top policy adviser. A former scholar, Wang has thrived in the top research office of the party under three presidents, contributing to decisions including amendments to the party constitution on foreign policies towards specific countries.

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Wang joined the top advisory team’s political division in 1995 and has led the research office since 2002, making him first a witness and later a key player of Beijing’s policies for the city since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Li Zhanshu: the president’s chief of staff. Like Wang, Li has accompanied Xi on most domestic and overseas trips. A friend of the president since the early 1980s, he has been arguably the most powerful chief of staff in decades and was trusted with solo diplomatic visits to pave the way for Xi visits, as in the case of Russia this year and 2015. Li is central to the daily operation of the party’s nerve hub and is considered Xi’s most trusted ally in the 25-strong Politburo.

Fan Changlong: the People’s Liberation Army’s top general. Fan might be the biggest surprise in Xi’s entourage to Hong Kong. When former president Hu Jintao visited Hong Kong 10 years ago, Hu only brought the defence minister, the third ranking general in the PLA. Fan, first ranking vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, is the most senior PLA official to visit the city since the handover in 1997. He is the most powerful man in the CMC after Xi.

Yang Jiechi: state councillor. China’s top diplomat is also a deputy of the party’s decision-making body on Hong Kong and Macau affairs. In addition to cross-border issues, Yang also focuses on the city’s role in China’s foreign polices and recently reminded Hong Kong of its obligations on China’s state security.

Wang Guangya: director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council. Wang, a former diplomat and London School of Economics graduate, has been director of the office and exclusively tasked with Hong Kong and Macau affairs since 2010.

Xi’s entourage also includes Wang Chen and Zhang Qingli, secretaries in general of the country’s top legislature and top political consultation body. The pair respectively oversee the daily operations of the National People’s Congress – empowered with interpretations of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, tasked with courting the city’s business elites.

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Among the Chinese officials that welcomed Xi at the airport was Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city. Zhang was accompanied by the commander and political commissar of the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison, as well as the foreign ministry commissioner in Hong Kong.