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Hong Kong localism and independence

Deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office steps down, a year late

  • Feng Wei, 61, had been asked to stay on to handle legal issues relating to calls for independence in Hong Kong
  • He will be replaced by Deng Zhonghua, 57, who has extensive experience working in areas related to Hong Kong and Macau, either side of the handovers
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 10:54pm

A top Beijing official in Hong Kong and Macau affairs stepped down after a year of delay in retirement, making way for a successor with years of work relating to the city and experience in both foreign affairs and party disciplinary works.

The State Council, China’s central government, announced on Saturday that Feng Wei had been relieved of the post of deputy director of its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Deng Zhonghua had been appointed to fill the position.

The news came almost three months after the Post reported that Feng, who turned 61 in September, was asked to stay on to handle legal issues relating to calls for independence in Hong Kong.

Feng was originally expected to retire late last year when he turned 60, the usual age for vice-ministerial officials to end their tenure.

Deng, 57, is the second number two functionary appointed to the office in the past two years with anticorruption experience, after Pan Shengzhou, who was appointed to run discipline inspection within the office in June last year.

Feng Wei fields a range of questions, from city’s economic development to democratic processes

Before the latest appointment, Deng had since last September been leading a team of inspectors sent by the Chinese Communist Party’s discipline watchdog to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the country’s top official think tank.

Educated in law like Feng, Deng spent a total of 15 years in the foreign ministry’s Hong Kong and Macau affairs department and worked as a cadre in the Chinese representative office of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group between 1988 and 1991 to discuss the city’s handover from Britain to China.

During a visit to Hong Kong in 2009 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Deng was asked about an incident where three Hong Kong journalists working in Xinjiang were beaten by armed police and later accused by the local authorities of inciting troubles.

Deng said he was “very sorry” for what happened and insisted that all reporters working on the mainland should follow the rules and laws there.

China’s anti-corruption drive turns towards Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office

While his predecessor was seen by the pan-democrats as a moderate, who had maintained dialogue with the camp even after the 2014 Occupy protests, it was unclear if Deng would continue with this bridging approach.

In April 2010, Feng held a meeting with Democratic Party leaders, paving the way for the historic talks between the Democrats and liaison office deputy director Li Gang a month later, which in turn led to an agreement allowing 3.2 million people without a vote in a functional constituency to elect five super-seat lawmakers.

Feng, who was present at the closed-door meeting, became deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in July 2014.

Feng believed the mainland Chinese government needed to communicate with the democrats, and that can happen in different form
Tik Yiu-cheung, former pro-democracy lawmaker

In August 2015, Feng met Democratic Party leaders to discuss Hong Kong’s governance and constitutional reform. The meeting was seen as an olive branch from Beijing after the reform plan was voted down in June 2015.

A source said Feng had also met two or three other democrats to channel their demands to Beijing. One of these was former pro-democratic lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, who confirmed he met his “friend” some time after 2014.

Former democrat Tik Chi-yuen said Feng’s moderate approach on Hong Kong affairs and democrats was overshadowed by a more hardline approach by the central government in recent years.

“Feng believed the mainland Chinese government needed to communicate with the democrats, and that can happen in different form,” Tik said.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said he heard of similar meetings between democrats and Feng, and such a role might be taken up by other officials after his departure.

Tam added that the personnel change in the office would not affect China’s policy on Hong Kong.